I beg to move, in page 1, line 7, after the word "sur- 1886 charged," to insert the words "on the ground of corruption or negligence."
I move this Amendment because it seems necessary to make some provision to protect members of many different kinds of local authorities from the penal Clauses of this Bill. Where public 1887 representatives are guilty of corruption or gross negligence, I do not think anyone on these benches would wish to save them from due punishment. I think we are all agreed that there can be no worse crime in public life than gross negligence of public duties and corruption, but the difficulty in which we find ourselves in this Bill is that people may be subjected to the penal provisions of the Bill who are not guilty of either corruption or negligence. The Bill on this point does not, as some people imagine, apply to a few local authorities. It really applies to a very large number of public representatives, including members of all boards of guardians in the country, members of county councils, urban and rural district councils, Metropolitan borough councils, all the members of the newer county borough councils, and to all the housing and education expenditure of all local authorities of every kind. So that within the net of this Bill there is included a very large number of public representatives.
My only desire in moving this Amendment is to protect these people who, in good faith, and in the interest of what they conceive to be the best public policy, carry out their duties without negligence, and without being guilty of corruption. I am not certain that I would not vote whole-heartedly for even these very drastic punishments for people who really are guilty of negligence and corruption, but the point I wish to raise is that, in effect, this may bring under the ban of the auditors a very considerable amount of expenditure of a variety of kinds where there can be no proof of the slightest kind that members of local authorities have been corrupt or negligent in the pursuit of their duties. As I understand the law as it stands now, it is not merely the duty of the district auditor to surcharge in cases of negligence or corruption, but it is, within his discretion, and indeed, it is his duty to surcharge persons who have been responsible for expenditure which he regards as unreasonable. This opens an alarming prospect for the future of our local governing authorities. It has been laid down in the House of Commons that excessive expenditure exceeds legality, and, therefore, it is the 1888 duty of the auditor to take steps to surcharge persons who have been responsible for it.
Consequently, it really means that in regard to these various local authorities with whom the auditor comes into contact, he has the right to determine, in respect of every item of expenditure, what, in his view, is reasonable. That is not a simple duty, having regard to the fact that many of these decisions with regard to expenditure are decisions raising questions of general policy of the party in power. There is no power which can compel a district auditor to, so to speak, punish local authorities who have acted unreasonably in the sense that their items of expenditure are too small, but the power is given to him to surcharge and punish people whose expenditure is, in his view, too large. That raises questions of social policy which I honestly do not believe district auditors or even the ordinary Courts of the land are competent to judge. They are not questions of fact or of law, but questions of political policy, and in the determination of them political views loom large. The district auditor, however independent he may try to be, quite naturally allows his own general outlook upon social problems to colour his view of what is and what is not reasonable. That means, therefore, that on a thousand items of expenditure he may decide that it is not reasonable. Though a reasonable expenditure would be perfectly lawful, he, determining in his wisdom that a certain expenditure is beyond the bounds of what is reasonable, can take the first steps towards a punishment which really means the exclusion of people from local government authorities and, possibly, from Parliament.
Another reason why it is very important that the Bill should be limited to negligence and corruption is that the district auditor exercises his power in various ways. As things stand to-day, nobody knows who is to be held responsible. It may be the unfortunate wretches who signed the cheque in respect of the expenditure; it may be all the members of at committee, as in the case of Poplar, where the unfortunate Moderates, who had voted against certain expenditure on every occasion, were yet surcharged. Because of this uncertainty of operation of the auditor's powers, and of other things which we cannot amend in this Bill, it is important to introduce this 1889 restriction. The Clause as it stands, without the Amendment, will become the machinery whereby district auditors, or perhaps the Government, can punish people for expenditure of which they do not approve. That really makes a farce of the whole system of local government. If local government is to be allowed to operate freely when it is limiting expenditure, or when Members of the party opposite are in undisputed power on a local authority, but is to be impeded when Members of a different political complexion are in authority on local bodies, that really means the destruction of local government in this country. The right hon. Gentleman may say that this is only a little Bill. Many Measures have started in a small way, but have developed. Nobody was ever led to believe that the right hon. Gentleman was going to use his Boards of Guardians (Default) Act against any other body than the West Ham Board of Guardians, but he has already suppressed others, and one does not know where this particular Measure will carry us before the right hon. Gentleman has finished.
We submit that a Measure so wide and sweeping is really an unjustifiable interference with the proper conduct of local government, and that is why we wish to limit its operations to surcharges arising out of corruption or negligence. We should take no objection to the Bill if that were all it did, but to allow the Bill to be applicable to any kind of surcharge above a certain amount is going far beyond what we regard as justifiable legislation. On this Amendment it is impossible to argue many of the points with which one would like to deal, but I have tried to make our case clear, and I do not want to be misunderstood. I do not want people to say that we are only too glad to cover up misconduct or corruption, because we should be bitterly opposed to that. Our whole complaint against the Bill is to be found in its neglect to include the words that we now wish to insert; without them it is a most unjustifiable interference with the rights of local authorities, subject to the general law of the land, and not subject to limitation of expenditure, to carry out their public work in the way they think best.
Mr. W. M. ADAMSON
I beg to second the Amendment. 1890 The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Greenwood) has very clearly indicated the position with regard to the responsibility that is upon the shoulders of a Minister in moving such a Clause without the safeguards contained in the words of this Amendment. We fear an extension of this policy which will limit the powers of locally-elected representatives who have been sent to local boards or councils to carry out the policy which they have advocated, unless we insert some safeguard stating that the provisions of this Bill shall operate only where there has been corruption or negligence. We fear that the democratic principle of local government will be infringed by the power which is being given to a district auditor, however impartially he may discharge his duty, to decide as to what is justifiable and what is right or wrong. I trust the Minister will reconsider the point we are raising. I have no desire to put forward the alternative position, but I happen to represent a district which is covered by two boards of guardians, and one would like to ask whether action would be taken against boards of guardians which fail to carry out their duties in a direction opposite to that of extravagant expenditure, as in the case of one board of guardians in my area which refused to grant any relief whatever during a dispute, and in the case of another which has been enforcing repayment of relief by those who did not actually receive the relief for themselves, the relief being paid to dependants. Those persons are being forced to repay that relief, the money being deducted from their wages week by week by arrangement with their employers. We feel that the words of the Amendment ought to be inserted as a safeguard against the infringement of the democratic principle that persons elected to local authorities are sent there to represent the wishes of the inhabitants.
The hon. Member who moved this Amendment has stated his views of the functions which are conferred upon the district auditor by this Bill, but he has stated them so inaccurately that, in resisting the Amendment, I feel bound to say to the House at once that I cannot accept his views. He has, no doubt unintentionally, entirely misunderstood what the functions of a district auditor are and what are the powers as a result of which certain things 1891 may happen under the provisions of this Bill. I quote these words from what the hon. Member said:Under this Bill, the auditor has the right to determine, as to every item, what in his view is reasonable.That is not the case.
The auditor has no such power, and the whole of the argument which was based upon that premise is bound to fall to the ground, because the premise itself is a false one. This Bill does not give the auditor any powers to surcharge.
I will put it another way if the hon. Member thinks I have not correctly represented what he said. I will say that now the auditor has no power to determine what is or is not reasonable. The consideration which has to guide the auditor is not whether an item of expenditure is reasonable or unreasonable, but whether it is legal or illegal.
Although it is true that in certain cases the Judges have held that certain items of expenditure were so unreasonable as to be beyond the bounds of legality, that is the opinion of the Judges and not of the auditor. I want the House to realise that if items of expenditure which indicate corruption or negligence, to use the words of the Amendment, were surcharged by an auditor, it would be on the ground that they were illegal, because it was illegal to expend money in those ways. I hope the House will keep that clearly in mind, because I should be sorry that it should go out to the country that the auditor's powers were such as has been stated.
I come to another aspect of the hon. Member's speech which I think shows that he has made an error even more fundamental than the one to which I have called attention. This idea seems to be very deep-rooted in the minds of hon. Members opposite, and it formed an important part of the reasoned Amend- 1892 ment which was moved to the Second Beading of the Bill which said:declines to proceed with a Bill which fails to safeguard the rights of locally elected authorities in the exercise of the duties imposed upon them by Acts of Parliament, and the will of the community.On the Second Reading of this Bill, I particularly asked the hon. Member to explain what he meant by the words "and the will of the community," but he did not make any response. I find that I was perfectly right in my interpretation that the hon. Member and his colleagues had decided that local authorities ought to be allowed to do not only those things which Parliament has said they may do but also anything else —[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—for which they can get a mandate from the electors. Does the hon. Member dispute that?
Certainly I do. Can the right hon. Gentleman quote any words in which I said that they should exceed the law?
The hon. Member said that this Bill was an unjustifiable interference with the proper functions of local authorities, and that the questions forming the basis of a surcharge are not questions of fact or of law, but questions of policy. What does the hon. Member mean by that? The candidates at a local election go before the electors with a certain policy, and they get the approval of the electors for that policy, and, if in carrying out that policy they exceed the law, they can be surcharged. If I have misunderstood the hon. Member, I shall be glad to be corrected.
I do not say that the Minister is deliberately misrepresenting what I said, but I am sure that nothing I have said can be interpreted as meaning that it was my view that it was right for any local authority to exceed its legal powers. What I referred to was the policy of applying those powers within the administration and that is a matter with which the auditor ought not to interfere. Of course, if they started municipal banks, that would be illegal. I am only asking for freedom for the local authorities within the existing legal limits.
If that be so, then a large part of the hon. Member's argument falls to the ground, because the 1893 hon. Member is not attaching the ordinary meaning to the word "policy."
It may be part of the administrative policy to pay £4 a week in wages, but, if that sum happens to be outside the limits of the law, a local authority has no right to pay a minimum wage of £4 a week. It might be possible for a party to come into power which would make that legal which was illegal before, and in that case there could be no possibility of any surcharge. During the Second Reading Debate the Amendment moved complainedthat duly elected representatives of the people may be disqualified from holding office otherwise than for corruption, misconduct or negligence.I want to know why the hon. Member has now left out "misconduct," which formed part of his first idea. What this Bill aims at principally is misconduct and not corruption or negligence. Hon. Members have stated that there was no greater crime than gross negligence or corruption. Supposing that a local authority deliberately breaks the law, and, after having had their action declared illegal they go on breaking the law and deliberately and intentionally continue their illegal action, is that not worse than gross negligence? That is precisely the sort of offence which is aimed at under this Clause, and, if you cut out that provision, as this Amendment would do, then the proposal is nothing more nor less than a wrecking Amendment, the object of which is precisely the same as the party opposite had in view when they opposed the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
I think I am quite right in stating that the Minister of Health denied that the auditor had power to decide these questions, but, in making that statement, the Minister was absolutely wrong, and his view is contrary to the law as laid down by Lord Justice Sumner. We are dealing with this matter under judge-made law; that is to say, we are dealing with the interpretations which have been given by learned Judges of Statutes dealing with this matter. Here is what Lord Justice Sumner said in the House of Lords:The auditor, when he reviews the accounts, is entitled and bound to use his own judgment as to the wages that would be reasonable under the circumstances.1894 He is entitled and bound to use his own judgment as to the wages that would be reasonable. The learned Judge was dealing with wages, and he was applying his arguments to any item of municipal expenditure. The learned Judge went on to say:He must do so in order to measure from that datum the excess of the wages paid, and to decide if the excess is so great as to evidence malâ fides. So it will be also with the Courts of law on appeal. If in the case of bad faith the auditor is capable of finding a reasonable amount and is bound to proceed to do so, I find no words in the Section which, on a sound construction, preclude him from doing the same thing when good faith is present, and I think that in both cases the reasonableness of the amount is a subject for his review.That is a higher opinion than the opinion of any hon. Member in this House. It is a higher opinion even than that of the Minister of Health, because the man who altered these words was the Supreme Judge of England. That is the law as he laid it down, and neither the Minister of Health nor the Law Officers of the Crown have any right to question the statement of law made by Lord Justice Sumner. Therefore, the auditor is bound to use his own judgment as to whether the wages are reasonable. That decision was given in regard to wages, and anyone who reads the judgment from which I have quoted will at once realise that what the Judge decided was applicable to any part of municipal expenditure, and wages were expressly protected. I do not want to rehearse the whole length of this judgment, but the judgments given in the Lower Court, the Court of Appeal, and the House of Lords were directed to bringing wages in under the Section, although the plaintiff contended that the wages were expressly excluded. What applies to wages applies all the more strongly to other items of expenditure, because with regard to wages alone there were special statutory provisions. I think I have now quite demolished the argument about reasonableness.
I do not think the hon. Member has done that at all. What she has read merely goes to prove what I have already stated, that the auditor must determine in his own mind what is reasonable, and that is the only foundation on which he starts to consider whether the action is so unreasonable as to be illegal. He does not surcharge 1895 until the unreasonableness has become illegal.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
The judgment which I have just quoted states that the auditor is bound to use his own judgment as to the wages that would be reasonable under the circumstances. Lord Wrenbury goes on to say:Wages are the pecuniary return for services rendered. To determine the proper or true amount which in a given 6tate of facts has been paid or is payable for services rendered is far from easy.There is no doubt whatever that the auditor, not merely can, but must in accordance with the Statute, apply his own judgment with regard to what is reasonable. I want to refer now to the purpose of this Amendment which provides a new set of penalties for an old set of crimes. There is no doubt whatever as to the penalties provided in the case of a surcharge over £500, because it means exclusion from public life for a definite period. In the case of a poor man, Clause 3 provides exclusion from public life for an unlimited period, because if the man is poor and likely to go bankrupt, it means that he is disqualified until his bankruptcy has been discharged. Consequently, in such a case the penalty is a very severe one. I want to go back to the Poplar case to show how exceedingly difficult it is for an ordinary layman to understand what are his public duties. In Section 62 of the Metropolis Management Act, 1855, it is laid down:That the councils may employ certain officers at such wages and salaries as they may think fit.There are nine other Acts dealing with the power of municipalities with regard to employment. The learned Judges have summarised the Acts at great length, and they have agreed that all those Acts mean the same thing. They mean that you can pay what wages you think fit. Could there be anything more simple or more plain to understand than to give the councils power to do as they think fit in this matter?
Could any Member of Parliament, any borough councillor, anyone, in fact, but the most learned in the law, have believed that those words meant other than they said? But they do; they mean something quite different. We know now, on the authority of the House 1896 of Lords, that they mean something entirely different from the sense which any one of us would have thought. I must read another extract from the judgment:Passing now to Section 62 of the Metropolis Management Act, 1856, the respondents found themselves upon its final words, 'such salaries and wages as the hoard or vestry may think fit,' and contend that in fact they remove the amount of wages paid beyond the scope of effective criticism.… It is said.… that for all purposes what they please is what is reasonable. Their reason is substituted as the test of reasonableness for that of the auditor or the Courts of Law. All the same, the result is that expenditure, which is, in fact, wholly unreasonable, is, on this view, not contrary to law, if the Council bona fide choose to incur it. This is a pure paradox.The learned Judge is feeling his way round about a great paradox, no less a paradox than the origin of evil, because learned theologians have said that it is impossible even for Omnipotence to give free will and at the same time not to give the power of doing evil. That is the paradox. Then the learned Judge went on to argue that the powers given to the council were in fact what the auditor in the first place, and the Courts in the second place, thought was reasonable.
I have gone into that case, not for the purpose of wandering over the ground, but to show the House how very difficult it is for plain persons to be sure that they are not sinning against the auditor or against the Courts of law. The crime which may be committed is a crime from which nothing but the most acute intellect will save one, and the situation is even more difficult with regard to other matters than wages. It extends to every contract. In one case a council was taken into Court for not having accepted the lowest tender. It is true that on that occasion the auditor lost the day, but that was because the Court of Appeal laid down the law as we should like to see it, saying that the discretion in the hands of the local authority was a very great and wide discretion, and that, where good faith was present, the auditor should not interfere. But that is the law no longer. The law now is that the judgment of the auditor and the judgment of the Courts is in all matters of municipal expenditure subsituted for that of the members of the local authority, and every member of a 1897 board of guardians, rural district council, county council, housing authority, or education authority, has to be sure, not merely that he acts in good faith, that he is doing public business to the best of his ability, but that he is as reasonable as every one of those distinguished gentlemen whom the country have chosen to be Judges on account of the power of their reason.
The crime to be committed is as vague and as elusive as it is possible to be, and the penalties are frightful. I do say that to inflict upon people the penalty of bankruptcy in some cases, the penalty of exclusion from public life in others, the penalty of enormous, monstrous, and crippling fines, is a very serious thing for this House to do. There is hardly a criminal who would be punished in this way. I know of hardly any person who would be punished by fine and bankruptcy to such an extent as this except in the very grossest cases of fraud. Penalties are being laid upon councils whose worst fault may be a certain obstinacy, a certain trust in their own judgment, such as the law inflicts in no other case except where there is the most monstrous fraud or wrong-doing. We say that, if fines of £5,000, £10,000, £20,000 are to be imposed, if people are to be excluded from public life for five years, if they are to be disgraced and to have their public career broken, it is wrong, it is wicked, to do it for what may be an error of judgment. That is the sort of offence which this Bill penalises. It is nonsense to say that it is confined to people who act illegally. Our difficulty is that the law is so uncertain that the plain man cannot tell whether he is acting illegally or not, and we all say that such enormous penalties ought not to be inflicted except for the most clearly defined offences, and offences of a very grievous character.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I would like to add a word or two to the reply given by my hon. Friend to the first point submitted by the Minister of Health. The right hon. Gentleman asked the House to believe that this Bill did not empower the auditor to find a man guilty, but that all that it did was to point to a certain item and say that the action of the council was so unreasonable that it came within the ambit of illegality. I want to submit to the House that it goes 1898 very much further. The auditor here can exercise his opinion as to what payment is illegal. When he gives his decision, the council, or the councillors, as the case may be, are disqualified until they can exercise the right of appeal. It is well known, however, that the councils against whom this Bill is directly aimed are composed of working-class people, who have not the financial means to exercise the right of appeal, and for the Minister of Health to ride off on that plea is just about as unjustifiable as it would be for a doctor to lay it down that a miner could get rid of tuberculosis by taking a six months' sea voyage, when he knew very well that the taking of such a voyage was beyond the power of the man.
All that is being asked for in this Amendment is that the authorities which come under this Bill should be placed in exactly the same position towards the law as the city of Birmingham. The city of Birmingham, as I understand the Bill, will not come under it except so far as its housing and education finance is concerned; in all other matters it is exempted, and the law is to be applied in one way in, say, the East of London, and in another way in the Midlands. I submit that there is no justification at all for taking that step. The Minister of Health has told us that during the past five years there have been only some five cases per annum where the amount would exceed £500. When we remember the thousands, perhaps millions, of transactions that take place every year in the local government of this country, and the thousands of men and women engaged in local government, five cases per annum seems to me to make up a very small sum, not justifying the alarmist situation which has been portrayed in the Bill, and which evidently prevails in the mind of the Minister. I would submit, on the other hand, that it shows that we have much to be proud of in the local government of this country, and in the thousands of men and women who gratuitously give their time and their abilities in the service of their fellow-countrymen. The service which they give, and which, according to the Minister, is so free from even the suggestion of corruption, should be viewed with a different mentality from that which appears to dominate the Government.
1899 The Minister appears to approach this subject in the spirit of Scotland Yard. He assumes that all those thousands of men and women are potential criminals. He sends his auditors round the country to ascertain day by day where crimes are being committed, and to select the criminals. The auditor has not merely power under this Bill to say what is an offence, but he has the power to select from among a body of councillors the particular persons to be prosecuted. He may prosecute the whole council, he may prosecute the majority or the minority of a council, he may select and prosecute an individual member of the council; he may select the victim for his politics, he may select him for his means, so that he may be able to pursue him still further into bankruptcy, or he may, if he wishes, select him for his poverty, so that he will not be in a position to exercise his right to appeal. These are enormous powers to place in the hands of any individual; they are powers unprecedented in the law of this country; and for any Minister to come forward and say that we should hand over these powers in a Measure which he regards as a small one, is, surely, to display an inadequate comprehension of what the law of this country and the rights of the subject are. May I remind the House that, even in these four or five cases, so far as I know, it has not been suggested that there has been any case of corruption that could not have been dealt with under the ordinary law, nor has any attempt been made to make out that cases that may arise in the future could not be dealt with in exactly the same manner. If the Minister will examine the troubles of the Ministry of Health during the past five years to which he has referred, he will find that they have arisen entirely, or almost entirely, from this very policy of laying down one law for Poplar and another law for Birmingham—one law for the poor and another law for the rich.
May I remind the House—I do not think it will be beyond their recollection—that a good deal of the trouble in the case of the Poplar Guardians arose out of what was called the Mond scale of relief? Under the Mond scale of relief, it was illegal to do in Poplar what could be done in other parts of London, or in other parts of England. 1900 Poplar, naturally, revolted. Poplar is being treated in exactly the same way in the Bill that is before us to-day; it is being singled out for a special law. I submit that the whole policy of parochial law is wrong, and is not one that should be supported by any section of this House. All that this Amendment asks is that a law should be laid down that will treat all guardians as honest men until there is reasonable ground for assuming that they are otherwise. They are asked here to respect a law which does not exist when they are exercising their duties. The law does not define what wages are to be paid or what scales of relief shall be given, and yet they may fix the wages, and they may fix the scales of relief; and then an auditor may come along and declare that those scales of relief or those rates of wages are outwith the Act of Parliament, and the guardians are to be punished in their public capacity for it.
I submit that that is entirely wrong. It is a degradation of local government. It will drive out of public life many strong-willed, desirable administrators, and will tend to man our local councils with weak-willed peope. A man may be punished in his capacity as a county councillor for something that he did as a rural district councillor; he may be guilty of a petty offence in an urban district council, and, because he is guilty of that offence, which was committed quite without any criminal intent, he is disqualified from sitting, say, on the London County Council. It goes further, and it discredits Parliament itself, because it says that while a man may not sit on one local authority because of an offence committed in another local authority, he may, unless pursued into bankruptcy, be a Member of Parliament itself. To place Parliament on a lower status than a rural district council is not creditable to the Government, and I hope that this Bill will not receive a majority in this House.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Dr. SALTER
The Bill before us reduces local authorities to a condition of extraordinary ignominy. To-day local authorities, five of them at any rate in London, have been compelled to amend their public policy, a policy decided upon after submitting it to the local electorate. Since the introduction of this Bill, a condition 1901 so extraordinary has grown up that a London Borough Council to-day is obliged to go and interview an auditor and) ask the auditor whether it may or may not give a man a rise of wages of one shilling a week. The position is really ridiculous. Let me give the Minister an illustration. A borough council with which I am personally connected has recently established a dust incinerator. A part of the work connected with it consists in the raking over the dust and refuse shot from the carts on the top of the hopper and shoving it into the hopper. It is dirty and disagreeable work and often dangerous. The rate of pay hitherto has been £3 3s. per week. The council unanimously, not by a majority, but unanimously, agreed that this rate of wages was insufficient for work of that particular character. They decided to raise the men's wages by 1s. 6d. a day. It was then pointed out by the clerk that they would bring themselves under the operation of this Bill if they did so, and if the Bill were passed into law.
They decided to send a deputation to the auditor to ask if they might raise the man's wages by 1s. 6d. because of the special character of the work and because in their unanimous judgment an increased rate of pay was appropriate to that work. The auditor said "No" without knowing anything about the work, and he did not pretend to know anything about the work or the circumstances connected with the case. He said: "No, there is in existence a rate known as the J. I. C. scale, and you must not pay more than 10 per cent. above that. Never mind anything about the special circumstances." We said: "Supposing we regrade, it will enable us to pay a higher rate of wages." He said: "That will not be permissible. You must not regrade. I cannot sanction any question of regrading." Here you have a publicly-elected authority reduced to the condition that it cannot raise a man's wages by 1s. 6d. a week or even 1s. a week without going on its knees to an official not elected by the public and with no responsibility to the public and asking the permission of that official. They have to do that before an ordinary administrative act can be performed in perfect good faith. If the borough councils concerned decide that in their judgment this is a proper thing 1902 to do, they are to be surcharged by the auditor and treated as criminals and run the risk of bankruptcy and to be eliminated from public life, not for five years, because in the majority of cases it is for the whole of their life. This is an extraordinary condition. It is the very negation of local government. It is the debasement of elected self-government. It is not right or fair. The Minister, in a speech he made at Greenwich on 7th November, when he was dealing presumably with this very Bill in his mind, said thatSocialists were not willing to play the game, but were determined to use local government to advance their theories, and it was his duty to frustrate them.That is exactly the whole position. If the Socialists' council does what it has always been urged to do, proceed by constitutional means to secure a majority and then put its policy into force within the existing law and the powers granted by Parliament, the Minister comes along and says: "You have managed to secure a majority; now I am going to frustrate your policy. I am going to step in and see that your majority does not prevail in this particular case where you have got into power." It is not playing the game. The right hon. Gentleman is deliberately interfering with the policy of his opponents where they have secured the good will of the electorate. The position to-day is a very cruel one for large numbers of men and women. I can confirm what has been said by the right hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) who suggested that this would mean the driving out from public life of a number of public-spirited men who were desirable members of local authorities. I know it as a fact that several extremely responsible people have decided to withdraw from public life in my own locality, and not offer themselves for re-election simply because the danger is too great; however honourable their intenions, they may at any moment, on a particular act of policy, meet with the condemnation of the auditor, and land themselves into financial and general disaster.
No one knows where he is at the present time. Up to now this policy has been applied solely to wages, but we have hints that further interference by the auditor is likely to be forthcoming in the 1903 near future. We do not know, at the present moment, whether the auditor may not come along and say: "You are spending too much money upon this particular scheme." Apparently, by the latest judgment he has the power to do so. He can step in and say not only "You shall pay no more than such-and-such wages," but "on this particular scheme you shall not pay more than such and such a sum of money." And if by that time the authority have decided to spend the money and have actually spent it, they may be surcharged and, although they have acted in perfect good faith, they may bring all these consequences upon themselves. There is no guarantee that events of that sort will not arise in the near future. Various hints have been given that the auditor is going to exercise his powers in other directions. By doing so you will eliminate from public life many men and women of the best type whom we want to encourage. To put men and women who make an honest mistake in the exercise of their judgment on the same basis as men who deliberately corrupt and perpetrate frauds on the public is, I submit, a very unfair, un-English and wrong proceeding, and the House should support the Amendment which has been moved.
§ Mr. HARRIS
Any stranger visiting this country, coming from abroad or from the Dominions, if he took up this Bill would be under the impression that there was a widespread necessity for surcharge owing to illegal acts in the country. Everybody knows that on the whole the local authorities throughout the country discharge their duties efficiently, legally, and on sound financial lines. The cases where auditors have complained of excessive expenditure or illegal expenditure are few and isolated and very rare. A great number of public men have given their time and services impartially in their desire to carry out the duties of local government according to the law. It ought to be remembered—it was not made clear enough in the discussion— that when an auditor surcharges members because of so-called illegal expenditure the existing law makes them subject to very heavy penalties, penalties which the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) among others, has suffered. The auditor is conscious that if he surcharges and the money is not forth- 1904 coming the penalty under the existing law must be imposed. Either the delinquent must be made bankrupt or in the alternative sent to prison. Both, it will be agreed, are very severe penalties. Everybody agrees that the law as it is at present wants amending. The question is whether this is the right way of amending it, and, secondly, whether the offences are numerous enough to require special legislation.
My own view is that the real cause of all our difficulties is that the areas of local government are far too small. One of the difficulties in London is that you have 28 borough councils. In the bulk of these 28 councils the standard varies. If over the whole of the area of London you had the same wage, this problem would not arise, but, as it happens, in East London you have a certain standard set up by people of very advanced views, while in the West of London there is a very much lower standard. I believe that is one of the causes that influenced the auditors in their decision. The Industrial Council, which represents all the local authorities, fixed the scale and, if that scale be exceeded in three or four districts, the auditor takes that scale to be excessive. I suggest that the real way to get over the problem is to reform the system of government. It is quite clear that in large areas, such as Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow, none of these problems arise. It is true that city corporations come out of the ambit except for education or housing. Those are two very important items, and if they came into conflict they would be subject to audit. That shows that where you have these large local government units these problems do not arise, and the need of surcharges does not arise.
I feel that what the Government ought to do is to define what is illegal. Take the question of wages. The Government cannot escape responsibility. It is very difficult to say what is a fair wage and what is a reasonable wage. On many occasions when the Minister has been challenged, he has refused, and from his point of view rightly, to give a lead to the country. If the question of wages is going to be a question of legality or illegality, surely the Ministry of Health, which is the supreme local government authority, ought to give some guide to 1905 the auditors. It is not fair to put on the auditor the responsibility of saying where the line is exceeded, where the figure is reasonable and where it is unreasonable. It is putting on him a responsibility which is not reasonably his, because the responsibility should be in the hands of the directing authority of the Ministry. After all, it is no use trying to get round it. The problem has largely arisen because of the variations of wages throughout the County of London. My opinion is perfectly clear that the right figure is that fixed by the Joint Industrial Council. It is not fair to put the decision on the auditors. It would be much wiser and fairer to the local authorities and to the auditors for the Minister to bring in a Bill making it clear how wages should be fixed by local authorities when they employ a large number of men. Then the responsibility would be Parliament's. When local authorities are engaging labour, they should engage it at trade union rates or, alternatively, according to figures fixed by the Joint Industrial Council, fixing the wages for a reasonable local government area, and it would not be difficult to find what that would be in each part of the country. In London, of course, it would be the Metropolitan area. That would be a far more satisfactory way to deal with illegalities.
My own feeling about this Amendment is that if the words "or illegality" were put in, it would be reasonable. That would be a fair, right and just limitation. It might be said that here we are up against Judge-made law. That is most unsatisfactory. The Minister would admit that. We know the circumstances of a surcharge by an auditor, and the Judge being forced to say a certain thing is legal or illegal. A question of wages certainly cannot be said to come within the purview of the law in the ordinary sense of the word. If at the same time that we add the words "or illegality" you undertake to pass legislation to give the Minister power to fix wages, or direct the basis of fixing wages, all your problem of local government would be removed. It is very unfortunate that local government should be made the battleground of wages. There are far more important duties to carry out in local administration than having a battle royal, first with the auditor, then with 1906 the Government and then with the electors, on the scale of wages to be fixed for what is, after all, a comparatively small area. Questions of economic conditions and wages are far larger than the fixing of them for one little local government unit. That has been the mistake made by some municipal councils of trying to use the local government authority in order to have a small battle on wages. It is weakening the power of the local authorities, it is confusing the issue, and they must share the blame with the Minister for the necessity for this Bill. Some sort of legislation is necessary, I admit. At present, it is unsatisfactory. I realise that the Bill is necessary, but I am prepared to try to make it fairer and more just by supporting reasonable, and not unreasonable, Amendments.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of HEALTH (Sir Kingsley Wood)
I wish the hon. Member had consulted the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Morris), who sits beside him, because I do not think I ever heard a more muddled statement of the whole position. In the first place, he referred to Judge-made law, and seemed to think there was something wrong with it. Some of the greatest decisions in this country have been achieved through Judge-made law. There is no particular reason why a judgment should not define the law of the country and lay down an interpretation of Act of Parliament.
§ Sir K. WOOD
The hon. Member totally misunderstands the position if he thinks the Judges are fixing the question of wages. This is not simply a question of wages. He has totally misconceived the whole position. We had a Debate on this very question of audits in 1924, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) was Minister of Health. It did not turn on the question of wages or whether they were reasonable. It turned on the question of Poor Law relief, and what did the hon. Member's leader, a man who speaks with great authority and is acceptable in many parts of the House, say?
In the first place, I think the present sanction of the law, namely, the power of 1907 surcharge, is quite inadequate and illusory. The ratepayers get nothing out of it. I will not say for the moment what substitute there ought to be for it, but I am quite sure it is a thing which is not worthy of Parliament. Here is an expenditure "—an illegal expenditure, and this expenditure, is not a question of wages at all,practically admitted, of very nearly £100,000, and the only remedy which the ratepayers, many of whom, remember, have no votes—in Poplar 55 per cent. of the rates are paid, I believe, by people who have no votes—docks, railway companies, and so on—and their money, the money they have contributed, is expended by these guardians for purposes which are admittedly illegal. Indeed, the guardians glory in it.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th February, 1924; col. 867, Vol. 169.]
§ Sir K. WOOD
This quotation is from one of the leaders of the Liberal party, then known as Mr. Asquith. This matter lies at the very root. If the effect of the Bill were only to apply in cases of corruption and negligence it would practically defeat altogether the object of the Bill. There are already sufficient remedies in law for negligence and corruption on the part of local authorities. Many Statutes have been passed many years ago dealing with that matter. I agree that our local government is one of the finest in the world, and there are very few cases indeed of corruption or negligence. That is not what we are aiming at. I am fortified by the opinion not only of Lord Oxford but another opinion, which will commend itself to hon. Members opposite. This is from the Debate on the same Motion. It is some years ago now, and nothing has been done.The next point is whether the power of surcharge will be retained. I join with my right hon. Friend (Mr. Wheatley) in saying that in my experience the power of surcharge has not been effective. We know perfectly well that if a Board of Guardians is surcharged and if it refuses to pay and finds its way into prison, the Ministry of Health has the board of guardians in prison, and it has a policy of surcharges which it must enforce, at any rate from the point of view of its own dignity. A deadlock takes place; no money is paid, the taxpayer is not relieved, the board of guardians are 'Poplarised,' and in the end the situation is the same. The only victim is the poor Ministry of Health, which is given an abso- 1908 lutely impossible law to administer."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1924; col. 396, Vol.: 170.]That is a statement of the present Leader of the Opposition when he was Prime Minister. What we are seeking to do is to carry out what the leaders of the Labour party and the Liberal party said has been too long a scandal, and this Bill is designed to deal with cases which have been referred to in such strong terms by Lord Oxford and by the Leader of the Opposition. If this Amendment were carried, it would defeat the very object of the Bill and the very thing which the leaders of both those parties say has to be done.
It is beyond the point to say that local authorities in the future will have any difficulty in connection with the matter. They have had no difficulty in the past. The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) has spoken as if there were some confusion in the mind of local authorities as to how to administer the law and what wages are to be paid. My answer is that, with the exception of five or six notorious authorities up and down the country, there has been no difficulty whatever. This Bill, in fact, only concerns five or six authorities. No other local authorities have any difficulty in the matter whatever. There is no need whatever to imagine that local authorities are going to be in grave difficulties as to what the law is. The only local authorities who will be in difficulty about the Bill are those which, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, are being "Poplarised," and even towards them the Bill is perfectly reasonable and just. Anyone would think if the auditors surcharged them, that is the end of their public career and nothing will remain for them but to retire from the service of the local authority. The hon. Member who spoke just now cannot have read the Bill. All that any member of a local authority has to do is to go to the Court. I have known of no difficulty in hon. Members opposite going to the Court. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) has had no difficulty in going to the Court. When they get to the Court, all they have to do is to satisfy the Judge that they acted reasonably, or in the belief that their action was authorised by law.
1909 Do hon. Members tell me that if any member of a local authority is not prepared to satisfy the Law Courts of this country, that he has either acted reasonably or in the belief that his action was authorised by law, that he is fit to remain a member of a local authority? If members of local authorities in these very limited cases are not prepared to satisfy the Courts that they have acted legally or in the belief that their action was authorised by law, they have no right to be members of a local authority. The idea that there is something very difficult about this Bill and that there is grave reason for misinterpreting it has not been justified as far as past experience is concerned. If this Amendment were carried, it would go against the whole object of the Bill, which seeks to deal with circumstances which have been specifically mentioned by the right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. R. MacDonald). As far as any ordinary prudent member of a local authority is concerned, he need have no fear as to the operation of the Bill. The only people who need have any fear are those people who are not prepared to look after the ratepayers' money as trustees and in the same way as they would look after their own money; people who act deliberately and persistently illegally. As far as those people are concerned, the Bill is necessary, and I believe that it will commend itself to the whole country.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The Parliamentary Secretary has made it perfectly clear that the arguments put forward from these benches are quite sound and correct. The Bill and the penalties are aimed at five or six cases, referred to by the hon. Member as notorious cases where people have deliberately broken the law. The hon. Member knows perfectly well that the law, as he calls it, was definite in every case until the House of Lords gave the decision which we have called the Judge-made decision. He knows quite well that all the cases, from the Westminster case to the Irish case, where the question of the right of the local authority to determine to whom it would give its contracts had been decided on the side of those of us who believed we had the right to fix wages which we considered reasonable. It is beyond the point for the hon. Member 1910 to say that in bringing forward this Bill he wishes to deal only with people who wilfully break the law. The House ought to understand that until this particular decision of the Courts against the Poplar Borough Council, in the first instance, and against other borough councils later, it was always understood that the law was on the side of the councils. The hon. Member is overlooking the fact that the auditor is now so stretching his power, or what he considers to be the power given to him under the House of Lords decision, that not only is he saying to the councils of London what wages they shall pay, but he is declaring into what grade a particular man or a particular woman should be placed for the work they are carrying out. The auditor is doing that in spite of the fact that no one, not even the House of Lords, has yet decided what is or is not a reasonable rate of wage to pay to a workman, or what is a reasonable salary to pay. The hon. Member talks, and the right hon. Gentleman also talks, as if this House of Lords decision had really decided something quite definite. What the House of Lords decision really amounted to was that £4 a week was a wage which ought not to be paid. They have not decided what is a reasonable wage or what is a legal wage to pay. That is the point that we are raising in this Amendment.
The councils may fix a lower wage than £4 a week; they may fix £3 a week, and we have no guarantee that the auditor will not come along and say that £3 a week is too much. It is true that the particular auditor who has made the surcharges up to the present has laid it down that in his judgment we might be allowed the discretion to pay what we considered a fair wage, to 10 per cent. over the Joint Industrial Council award or 10 per cent. over the trade union agreement. We have no certainty that the next auditor, when the present auditor retires, will not say, "You have no right to have a discretion to 10 per cent. You ought only to pay the actual amount that the Joint Industrial Council has decided, or the amount agreed upon the trades unions and the councils." We do not know, and the right hon. Gentleman does not know, whether the next auditor will hold the same view as the present auditor with regard to what is reasonable, and 1911 because we may happen to disagree with a new auditor who has not had any chance of consulting with us as the present auditor has had, he may take a different point of view, and the borough councils of London are to be in the position of semi-criminals.
It is no use the right hon. Gentleman saying that all he wants to deal with are the people who are guilty of misconduct. Will he deny that he has no power to control what the next auditor will do? Will he deny that it is possible to conceive that the next auditor may disagree with the present auditor and say that even up to 10 per cent. shall not be allowed or even that the Joint Industrial Council's award should not be allowed? One of the Judges said that there ought not to be any question of awards or agreements and that we ought to pay just whatever we could get the men to work for, that is, the lowest wage possible. Some auditor may be appointed who will hold that view. A council, even a Tory council, may conceive that that is the wrong sort of principle on which to fix wages, and they may be surcharged, and the only thing that they can do will be to appeal to the Courts. The Parliamentary Secretary made reference to myself on this point. I think it was rather unfair and misleading to the House for him to say that we can go to the Courts and that because I have been to the Courts it is a proof of how easy it is for aggrieved councillors or guardians to go to the Courts. He knows perfectly well that under this Bill it will not be the council who will go to the Courts and it will not be the council who will pay the expenses. The individual councillors will nave to find the money. I could not possibly have gone to the Courts and have spent £3,000 fighting a case which ultimately we lost, and the hon. Member knows that. The right hon. Gentleman and the Parliamentary Secretary know that they have taken good care in this Bill to make it impossible for poor men to fight the auditor in the Court; therefore they will have no choice but to submit to whatever the auditor chooses to lay down.
When we come to the question involved in the last part of the hon. Member's statement, with regard to the Poor Law, I wonder if the House realises that up 1912 to the time when the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessor, the right hon. Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond), became Ministers of Health, there was always an unwritten rule in the Local Government Board in its dealings with boards of guardians not to interfere with scales of relief, not to lay down scales of relief and not to say whether the board should or should not pay a certain amount. Under the right hon. Gentleman's administration he has, in effect, laid down what shall be paid in individual cases. At the present time an auditor, acting I take it on the instructions of the right hon. Gentleman, is going through a series of cases in different boards of guardians in the metropolis and compelling the boards of guardians, against their own better judgment, to reduce the amount that they are paying to people who need relief. He is enforcing that reduction by saying that this Bill is going to become law and that if the guardians continue to pay the larger amounts they will be dealt with under the provisions of this Bill. Before the House of Commons gives the Minister power or the auditor power to determine what relief shall be given in individual cases, this whole new principle ought to be thrashed out on the Floor of the House. It ought not to be done in this indirect manner. It is true that this Bill does not, apparently, give the auditor any new powers, but because of the penalties of surcharge put into this Bill, the auditors are using the Bill in order to force the guardians to administer the Poor Law in a manner which they consider wise, proper and reasonable as against the wisdom of the elected guardians. The right hon. Gentleman knows that if his Department were asked to insist that the board of guardians should pay proper relief he would be the first to say that that is a subject for the discretion of the guardians, but when it is a question of giving adequate relief or what the guardians consider to be adequate relief, the guardians are to come under the penalties imposed by this Bill.
I wish to call attention to another fact in regard to this penalising of Labour boards of guardians. The right hon. Gentleman was good enough during the Debate on the Second Reading to say that people like myself, when we said that the people who elected us had the right to expect another kind of policy 1913 to be adopted when we had been elected, were really bribing the electors. I want to say to the right hon. Gentleman and to this House that within the limits of the Poor Law, and within the limits of a borough council's operations, members of those bodies have a perfect right to go to the electors and say, "If we are elected we shall do so and so as against the policy of those whom we oppose." When they do that they are no more bribing poor people than is the right hon. Gentleman bribing when he advocates Tariff Reform in order to bring more trade to Birmingham or elsewhere. It may be that we are very dense, but I cannot see the difference between Tweedle-dee in Birmingham and Tweedledum in Poplar. The people in Poplar are entitled to elect me to this House, hoping that by doing so something will be done to help to improve their standard of life. That is perfectly legitimate, just as the manufacturers of Birmingham have a right to expect that the right hon. Gentleman will back them up.
The point in regard to Poor Law relief is that by a side wind, and the introduction of this penal legislation, the right hon. Gentleman is taking out of the hands of boards of guardians the right to deal as they think fit with individual cases. He is determining what the law is to be. Under the Act of 1834, the right hon. Gentleman is expressly prohibited from laying down scales of relief for boards of guardians, but by the penal Clauses in this Bill and giving this power to the district auditors, he is positively going to break that law, and in a roundabout manner. We want guardians and councillors to come under the provisions of this Bill only when they do something which is corrupt, illegal and wrong, and we hope the House will support us in this Amendment. The only crime and offence that has ever been charged against any of these terrible boards which are said to be Poplarised is that they have given a family a few shillings extra relief or paid a small sum extra in wages. That is the only crime charged against them. That is the only crime for which he is imposing this penalty on poor men and women who give as much time, thought and energy to their work on these boards and councils as any hon. Member gives to his work on this House. They give untold hours of labour in order to administer the affairs of their borough 1914 in an efficient manner, and now the right hon. Gentleman, not because of any corruption or wrongdoing on their part, but because their judgment as to what is right happens to disagree with the judgment of his own party or the officials of his Department, says that they are to be penalised by banishment for five years from public life or to be made bankrupt in the Law Courts.
The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) has said that this penalty can be applied now; but that is hardly true. All that can happen now, although the Minister has never dared to impose it, is that their goods and chattels might be seized, and a sentence of six weeks' imprisonment imposed. The right hon. Gentleman knows that if he sent us to prison for six weeks, our people would think very much more of us after we came out than before. But instead of doing that, instead of coming to this House in a straight-forward manner and saying that local authorities must no longer be allowed to fix scales of relief or to judge what is a proper amount to be paid to able-bodied men who ask for out-door relief, he introduces this miserable, mean and despicable Bill, which imposes penalties on men and women who ought not to be called upon to do this work. If the problem of poverty were dealt with as it ought to be, the Poplar board of guardians would not have to face this burden.
In my opinion, it is sheer cowardice to bring in a Bill with such penalties in it. These people are not wilfully breaking the law. They hold that if they give relief at all it should be adequate, and, indeed, the Ministry of Health itself has laid down the principle that if you give relief at all you should give it adequately, so that it will be able to maintain the men and women who get it. When it comes to wages, there is not a council or local authority in London which has any sort of standard to go on as to what is right or wrong. The auditor at this moment—I must repeat this—is to-day interviewing borough councils and fixing with them what wages shall be paid. There is no law in this country which gives him that authority. The only power he has is given him by the penal Clauses of this Bill. I repeat that it is a cowardly and despicable thing for one 1915 political party in the State to try to down its political opponents by these methods.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
There is a tendency to discuss the whole Bill on this Amendment. That should come on the Third Reading.
§ Mr SNELL
It is perfectly clear from the speeches from the Front bench that the Minister of Health is determined not to be in the least degree helpful to the House in a very real difficulty. We are led to believe that the legality or illegality in this matter is quite patent to anybody who wants to understand, but yet in the minds of hon. Members on this side, and in the experience of borough councillors and boards of guardians, there is a real difficulty as to what is legal and what is not, The Minister of Health comes down here in a spirit of complacency as though it did not matter in the least that men who are doing their best in local government are to be penalised and thrown out of public life, or rendered poverty-stricken and bankrupt. If it were a question of removing any hon. Member opposite from his London club, or from his position as an officer in the Army, the whole of the Government side would be up in arms against it. We claim that these men, who are doing public work, are entitled to the same consideration in regard to their position.
Who are these men engaged in public service? One would imagine that they were a Bill Sykes' regiment in the community. Nobody in this House has a greater experience of local government than the Minister of Health, and few men have a higher reputation than he has as a local administrator. In the limited sphere which Birmingham offers for observing the work of working men on municipal councils, he knows that as much ability and the most sterling self-sacrifice any men could ever offer to any cause is offered by working men to the great principles of English loal government. There is no country in Europe or America that does not stand in admiration of the purity and efficiency of the men who are doing this work. We ask, at this late stage, that the Minister should refrain from putting this stigma 1916 upon them. It is not as though they are supposed to have transgressed and do not try to do what is right.
I know the case of one council which earned the displeasure of the district auditor. There was a real difficulty. The council gave an undertaking and desired most honourably and most loyally to abide by it. Men were engaged in very hard work on roads and sewers, where the earnings at any time are quite small and subject to all the delays of bad weather; the wear and tear upon their clothes and health were serious, and they asked the council for soma variation in their wages. The borough council, loyal to its undertaking to the Ministry of Health, did not feel able to meet their demands and applied to the Ministry of Health for advice. But neither by correspondence nor in answer to a question in this House will the Minister say more than this, that the borough council must do what it thinks right. If the district auditor agrees, it is well; if he does not, then they must bear the consequences. Further, he says that they have an opportunity of appealing to him; but that is only within certain limitations. These amounts run up very quickly, if you have 200 men employed on a job. It is really playing with the Opposition to reply in this manner.
Before this Clause is passed, the Minister should give to the administrators on borough councils some assurance beyond a mere gamble on the temper of the district auditor on any particular day. These men are entitled to a greater amount of sympathy, and to some advice. I assume that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that borough councils must have some discretion in regard to what it does, and, if it is to have some discretion, then the question is, to what extent it should be given and where it should cease? We have put a very real difficulty before him, and I suggest we should not leave these men at the mercy of the district auditor in this way. As far as we can, in our approach to local government, it is our practice and desire to obey the law. If the law be not right we are sent here for the express purpose of trying to put it right, but until it is put right we want to obey it. But we do want to know what the law is, and we have a right to expect from the Minister a greater 1917 guidance than he has been willing to give us so far in a very difficult matter. I will not question the impartiality of the district auditor. I am quite sure that, according to his lights, he administers the law as he thinks it is. But borough councils have some responsibility, and we ought to know what that responsibility is. If a borough council is culpably negligent, or corrupt, that is another matter; but a mere fault of discretion in a very human matter should
|Division No. 461.]||AYES.||[6.0 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)|
|Albery, Irving James||Curzon, Captain Viscount||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Dalkeith, Earl of||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cen'l)||Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Kindersley, Major Guy M.|
|Ashley. Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Dawson, Sir Philip||King, Commodore Henry Douglas|
|Astor, Viscountess||Drewe, C.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Atkinson C||Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Ellis, R. G.||Lamb, J. Q.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||lane Fox, col. Rt. Hon. George R.|
|Balniel, Lord||Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Lister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip|
|Barclay-Harvey, C M.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Loder, J. de V.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Long, Major Eric|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Looker, Herbert William|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Fenby, T. D.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere|
|Bennett A J||Fermoy, Lord||Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Fielden. E. B.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Berry, Sir George||Forrest, W.||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Foster, Sir Harry S.||McDonnell, Colonel Hon Angus|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Fraser, Captain Ian||Macintyre, Ian|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Ganzoni, Sir John||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Gates, Percy||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Boothby R. J. G.||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Makins, Brigadier-General E.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Margesson, Captain D.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Goff, Sir Park||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Brassey. Sir Leonard||Gower, Sir Robert||Meller, R. J.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Grace, John||Merriman, F. B.|
|Briscoe. Richard George||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Meyer, Sir Frank|
|Brittain Sir Harry||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-|
|Brocklebank C. E. R.||Grotrian, H. Brent||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)|
|Brooke Brigadier-General C R. I.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)|
|Brown. Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Hacking, Douglas H.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Buchan John||Hall. Lieut.-Colonel Sir F. (Dulwich)||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)|
|Buckingham. Sir H.||Hall, Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Moore, Sir Newton J.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hall, Capt, W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Moreing, Captain A. H.|
|Burman, J. B.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Harland, A.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Harrison, G. J. C.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hon. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)|
|Campbell. E. T.||Hartington, Marquess of||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Oakley, T.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R.(Prtsmth. S.)||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Hawke, John Anthony||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. sir Evelyn (Aston)||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Penny, Frederick George|
|Cecil. Rt. Hon Lord H. (Ox Univ.)||Henderson, Lt.-Col. Sir V. L. (Bootle)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Henn. Sir Sydney H.||Perring, Sir William George|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Hills, Major John Waller||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Christie, J. A.||Hilton, Cecil||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Pilcher, G.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Pllditch, Sir Philip|
|Clayton. G. C.||Hopkins. J. W. W.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)||Preston, William|
|Cochrane Commander Hon. A. D.||Hopkinson. A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Cockerill. Brig.-General Sir George||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Cohen Major J. Brunei||Hudson. Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Colfox. Major Wm. Phillips||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hume, Sir G. H.||Remnant, Sir James|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Hume-Williams. Sir W. Ellis||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Cope. Major William||Huntingfield, Lord||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Hurd, Percy A.||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)||Hurst, Gerald B.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'tl'y)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Illife, Sir Edward M.||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey. Gainsbro)||Iveagh, Countess of||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
§ not be visited by expulsion from public life, and does not merit the stigma which this Clause implies.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 238; Noes, 98.
|Rye, F. G.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Sprot, Sir Alexander||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.||Wells, S. R.|
|Sandeman, N. Stewart||Storry-Deans, R.||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-|
|Sanderson, Sir Frank||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Sandon, Lord||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Savery, S. S.||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.||Winterton. Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie||Tasker, R. Inigo||Withers, John James|
|Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew. W)||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||Tinne, J. A.||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfst)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Skelton, A. N.||Tryon, Rt. Hon George Clement|
|Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough||TELLERS FOR THE AYES —|
|Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.||Major Sir George Hennessy and Captain Wallace.|
|Smithers, Waldron||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-spring)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hardie, George D.||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Harris, Percy A.||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hayday, Arthur||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Baker. J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hirst, G. H.||Scurr, John|
|Baker, Walter||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Barnes, A.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Batey, Joseph||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Lansbury, George||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lawrence, Susan||Snell, Harry|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lawson, John James||Sutton, J. E.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lee, F.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)|
|Compton, Joseph||Lindley, F. W.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Cove, W. G.||Livingstone, A. M.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plalstow)|
|Crawturd, H. E.||Lowth, T.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lunn, William||Townend, A. E.|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Mackinder, W.||Viant, S. P.|
|Dennison, R.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow. Govan)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Duncan, C.||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||March, S.||Westwood, J.|
|Gardner, J. P.||Montague, Frederick||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Gillett, George M.||Morris, R. H.||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Gosling, Harry||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Naylor, T. E.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Greenall, T.||Oliver, George Harold||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Owen, Major G.||Windsor, Walter|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Paling, W.||Wright, W.|
|Groves, T.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. Whiteley.|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Potts, John S.|
§ Question put accordingly, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
|Division No. 462.]||AYES.||[6.9 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Gosling, Harry||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Mackinder, W.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Greenall, T.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||MacNeill-Weir, L.|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||March, S.|
|Baker, Walter||Groves, T.||Montague, Frederick|
|Batey, Joseph||Grundy, T. W.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Oliver, George Harold|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hardie, George D.||Paling, W.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Harris, Percy A.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hayday, Arthur||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hirst, G. H.||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Potts, John S.|
|Compton, Joseph||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Cove, W. G.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Lansbury, George||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lawrence, Susan||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Lawson, John James||Scurr, John|
|Dennison, R.||Lee, F.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Duncan, C.||Lindley, F. W.||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Gardner, J. P.||Lowth, T.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhiths)|
|Gillett, George M.||Lunn, William||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
§ The House divided: Ayes, 93; Noes, 247.
|Smith Rennie (Penistone)||Townend, A. E.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Snell, Harry||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Stamford, T. W.||Viant, S. P.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Sutton, J. E.||Wallhead, Richard C.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)||Webb. Rt. Hon. Sidney||Windsor, Walter|
|Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)||Wellock, Wilfred||Wright, W.|
|Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)||Westwood, J.|
|Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plalstow)||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Thurtle, Ernest||Whiteley, W.||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. A. Barnes.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Drewe, C.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.|
|Albery, Irving James||Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Lister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Ellis, R. G.||Livingstone, A. M.|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Loder, J. de V.|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Darby)||Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Long, Major Eric|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Looker, Herbert William|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere|
|Astor, Viscountess||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman|
|Atkinson, C.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Fenby, T. D.||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Fermoy, Lord||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus|
|Balniel, Lord||Fielden, E. B.||MacIntyre, Ian|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Forrest, W.||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Fraser, Captain Ian||Makins, Brigadier-General E.|
|Benn, sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Ganzoni, Sir John||Margesson, Captain D.|
|Bennett, A. J.||Gates, Percy||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Bentinck. Lord Henry Cavendish-||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Meller, R. J.|
|Berry, Sir George||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Merriman. F. B.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Meyer, Sir Frank|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Goff, Sir Park||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Gower, Sir Robert||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Grace, John||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Grotrian, H. Brent||Moore, Sir Newton J.|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Moreing, Captain A. H.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hacking, Douglas H.||Morris, R. H.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hall, Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hon. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Oakley, T.|
|Buchan, John||Harland, A.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Hartington, Marquess of||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Owen, Major G.|
|Burman, J. B.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Penny, Frederick George|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Hawke, John Anthony||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Perring, sir William George|
|Campbell, E. T.||Henderson, Lt.-Col. Sir V. L. (Bootle)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. S.)||Hills, Major John Waller||Pilcher, G.|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Hilton, Cecil||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Preston, William|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Christie, J. A.||Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Remnant, Sir James|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Huntingfield, Lord||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hurd, Percy A.||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hurst, Gerald B||Rye, F. G.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Samuel. Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)||Iveagh, Countess of||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Sandon, Lord|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Jephcott, A. R.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Savery, S. S.|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl.(Renfrew, W.)|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.||Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Knox, Sir Alfred||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Lamb, J. Q.||Sinclair, Col. T.(Queen's Univ., Belfst)|
|Skelton, A. N.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Tinne, J. A.||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Titchfield. Major the Marquess of||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Smithers, Waldron||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Winterton Rt. Hon. Ear,|
|Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough||Withers, John James|
|Spender-Clay, Colonel H.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.||Wallace, Captain D. E.||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Storry-Deans, R.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Streatfeild, Captain S. R.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Wayland, Sir William A.||Major Sir George Hennessy and Major Cope.|
|Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.||Wells, S. R.|
|Tasker, R. Inigo||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-|
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I beg to move, in page 1, line 7, to leave out the words "with an amount exceeding five hundred pounds," and to insert instead thereof the words "on more than one occasion in respect of recurring expenditure."
There are two points involved in this Amendment. It is aimed at meeting two of the more obvious absurdities and injustices in this Bill. In the Bill, as it stands, we have the extraordinarily arbitrary figure of £500 fixed in connection with this Clause. The Minister in Committee was quite unable to explain why this figure had been selected. It seemed to be a favourite figure with the right hon. Gentleman just as in years past the number seven was regarded as a sacred number—or perhaps it is rather more like the old cases in which people were hanged for stealing if the amount involved was more than 40s. The point is that this figure applies very differently to people in different circumstances. For example, £500 is a very different sum to the right hon. Gentleman and to myself; and it is a very different sum to the London County Council and to one of the small urban districts. If a London county councillor makes an error of judgment and fails to satisfy the auditor that the expenditure incurred in some such matter as the wages of night watchmen is reasonable, he will have committed an offence which may involve over £500 and he will be caught under this provision. On the other hand, in a small urban district council the members may pay two or three times those wages to a much smaller number of men. They may be surcharged and yet the amount involved will not be £500 and they will not be caught under this provision. Of course, the Bill is not aimed at small urban district councils. It is probably not aimed very much at county councils, except at a few of them such as Durham, perhaps, or Lanark. It is mainly aimed 1924 at the larger urban authorities which have not the good fortune to have elected auditors. In the case of London boroughs with populations ranging from 100,000 up to 300,000 the penalty of £500 may easily be incurred for some quite minor error of judgment.
The Minister failed to rid himself of the accusation that this penalty depends not upon anything that is done but on the view taken by the district auditor. You never know where you are with the district auditor to-day. A short time ago the district auditor came round to my own borough. I do not know who he was, but I should imagine that his name was Parker, with the Christian name of "Nosey." He proceeded to go into the question of the letting of the town hall. We let the town hall as an institution which is for the benefit of the whole of the people, and the auditor began to inquire as to whether, when we let it for entertainments, we managed to make it pay. That was a case where a surcharge of over £500 might have been involved. It is all right for the right hon. Gentleman in Birmingham. I see they have a very fine art gallery there which is open free. They cannot be surcharged but if we try to do anything, such as using the town hall, the auditor may say that we are not charging a reasonable amount.
Again, there is the question of contracts. We never know where we are with regard to contracts. Take the case of a contract for electrical apparatus. We had one last week which ran to something like £88,000. It was a question of whether we should take the highest or the lowest tender and there was a difference of about £30,000. The lowest tender happened to be a foreign tender. If we accepted the English tender we should have been liable straight away under this Bill, and we did not know what the district auditor would say. If he had been brought up in the tenets of some, at all events, of those hon. Members who sometimes sit below 1925 the Gangway, he would hold it to be totally unreasonable in the circumstances to give the contract to the British firm. On the other hand had he been brought up in the school of the right hon. Gentleman opposite he would, no doubt, say it was perfectly reasonable to do so. We do not know. On the other hand, a small council might make a mistake of the same sort in regard to ordering a mowing machine, and the matter would only involve a few pounds. Therefore, this £500 is no criterion as to the offence committed. The Minister objected to our suggestion that there was anything except illegality involved, but it is a pure matter of right or wrong judgment.
I have a suggested Amendment later on the Paper which may not be called upon, providing for a sliding scale, and I should like the Minister to say why this £500 has been selected. Does he really think it just that a person who is a member of the London County Council or the Durham County Council, which passes a certain resolution, should be brought under this Act and penalised in respect of an expenditure of over £500, when precisely the same resolution may be passed by an authority of the same character, only it happens to be a small authority, involving less than £500, and the members in that case get off scot free? It is obviously unjust and anomalous. The second part of my Amendment suggests that the good old English principle that a dog should be allowed one bite might also apply even to people who are so much worse than dogs—people such as Labour borough councillors. At present we have to play a guessing game with the district auditor, in which there are no prizes and very heavy penalties. We have to try to "spot the winner" when we are fixing wages. You get some special sort of work which is being done for the borough council and you have men working at sewers, or some unpleasant work of that nature. These men complain that their clothes are being ruined by this work, that they are frequently wet through and that they suffer in health and they ask for better wages. When the matter comes before the council it is not open to us to consider it in that businesslike way in which we are told these matters should be considered. It must not be dealt with as a business matter at all. All the council have to think about is 1926 how their decision will appeal to the district auditor. If they put on too much he comes round and allows a surcharge.
There are occasions on which you can get an expression of opinion from the district auditor, but very often you can get no expression of opinion at all. The Minister says, "Wait and see!" "Wait and see" may have been all right in the old times when the surcharge was not in force, but to-day if you wait and see you may find yourself faced with a surcharge, you may find your public career brought to an end, and you may find yourself bankrupt. I always understood that if an offence was set up under an Act of Parliament, with a penalty, that offence should, at all events, be certain. In this case the offence is hypothetical. It is an offence which does not exist as written down in the law. It exists in a rather irresponsible official's social conception of municipal government. We do not know what view he may take. For years we may have carried on one particular practice in local government. The fact that we have done so does not show that we have not been wrong all the time. A new district auditor may arise, or the same district auditor may come round and suddenly begin to question some practice which has been in force for a long time.
I have mentioned the question of charges for a town hall. That is quite a new point. Elsewhere, questions have been raised concerning the charges made for baths and wash houses. There you have a question in dispute which has been left to the broad interpretation of the council. Some councillors think that the baths and wash houses constitute a municipal trading concern which ought to make a profit and pay its way. That is what used to be known as the business view. But other people regard the baths and wash houses as part of the public health system and are quite willing that a loss should be incurred on them, as long as the people have the benefit. If we make a mistake, if we fail to fix the right amount, we are liable to be surcharged and to be brought under this Bill. How are we to know what are the ideas of this unknown official on a matter of municipal government of this sort. The right hon. Gentleman at an earlier stage tried to narrow this point down, and he 1927 tried to suggest that this only applied to cases where councillors went outside the law. That is clearly wrong. The Bill is not needed at all if it is only a question of going outside the law. You can deal now with people who break the law. I sometimes wish the right hon. Gentleman would deal with some people who break the municipal law when they fail to deal with the conditions in some of our great cities, not excluding Birmingham. But this proposal extends the law in an extraordinarily vague way and the result is to put local authorities into confusion. We have to guess at what is right.
The right hon. Gentleman just now rather sneered at our suggestion that we regretted the carrying out of a certain policy. We had, I am glad to say, an extremely enlightened opponent on our borough council, and when we started to do just the thing the Minister objects to he said, "I do not oppose this; you are right. You told the electors you would do it, and you are doing it." That is the sound constitutional position, but it is not that of the right hon. Gentleman. If we are to have this Bill, let us try and make it a little more fair all round, and let us see that we do not penalise the men who live in a big urban district and entirely let off the men who live in a very small district. I have no reason to think that their judgment or reason is any better because they happen to live in smaller aggregations of population, but that is what this Bill says in effect.
Let us substitute for the £500 limit that there must, first of all, be at least one occasion on which the auditor may say, "This thing is wrong." Let there be an opportunity of testing it in law, and then let the auditor come along and surcharge if people do it again, but as long as you leave the matter in such uncertainty that none of the councillors know what is happening, it is most unfair. Not even the right hon. Gentleman himself seems to know what the district auditors are doing. This Bill is being pushed forward by the right hon. Gentleman, with very eminent strategy and tactics, as his part of the class war, and I suggest that this Amendment will at least mitigate the Bill, restore it to some degree of reasonableness and sanity, and not leave it, as it is now, a game in which we councillors have perpetually to go in 1928 for a gamble, with a certainty that we cannot win and that, if we lose, our political life and probably our economic life, too, may be totally destroyed.
§ Mr. CECIL WILSON
I beg to second the Amendment.
I am not sure whether those who are responsible for this proposal in the Bill really appreciate what is continually happening on our municipal councils. To take the case of some matter of expenditure, it is passed in the first instance by a sub-committee, who go into the particulars and satisfy themselves as far as possible that the expenditure is entirely warranted. It then goes forward to the larger committee, consisting of perhaps 15 or 20 members, and it is passed by them on the recommendation of their sub-committee, after which it goes forward to the council as a whole. If this Clause really means what it says, it creates a position practically involving almost every member of the council at one time or another in these illegal proceedings; and then, as has been pointed out already, when the auditor comes along, he will say that this expenditure, which has been incurred in perfectly good faith, having gone through all the usual processes of checking and so forth, is an expenditure which ought not to have been incurred, and all the members of the council will be liable because of their share in it; they will be supposed to have some responsibility for it.
It is most unfair, more particularly when we consider that an individual member is never going to know until afterwards whether he is right or wrong. I have signed these things as a member of an audit committee, and I have passed many of these accounts. I have passed them as a chairman of committees, and I have passed them again when it has been a question of signing a requisition. Sometimes there may be 10 or 20 sheets, with as many as from 30 to 50 names, and they are signed in good faith, with reason to suppose that every check has been placed upon them, and then the individual member is placed in this position under this Bill. However good may be the faith of those who are taking part in public life, if anything of this sort is going to be imposed on the very first occasion on which not some deliberate offence, but some mistake, is made, a mistake of which the district auditor alone is to be 1929 the judge, you are going to intimate to people that they should not go into public life at all, because really they are not going to accept a responsibility of this kind.
§ Sir K. WOOD
The hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment, did so, if I may say so, in a very able speech, as he always does, and I notice that he was very careful to devote 99 hundredths of that speech to criticisms of the Clause and very little indeed to his own Amendment. I must say I cannot conceive of a more extraordinary suggestion than the one which he himself proposes. Apparently the idea is that every council is to have one bite, and after that the penalties of the law are to fall upon it. I can conceive the case, as I dare say the hon. Member can, where you have a council such as is known to us which intends deliberately to break the law, a council whom nothing can restrain. Such a council may have no regard to what anybody says and can snap their fingers at the present procedure, because that is the present position under the law. It has already been referred to this afternoon. Under this Amendment all that such a council, with that motive and idea in their mind, has to do is to arrange for a certain number of them, first, to vote for the illegal expenditure, then retire, and then the next body of gentlemen, actuated with similar feelings, come along, and they pass their resolution. They all have their bite, they go on filling the ranks of this particular council, and they could keep it going for I do not know how long, at the very considerable expense of the ratepayers of the district.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The hon. Member is dealing with the form of the Amendment. Does he agree that people should know the law before they are penalised for breaking it?
§ Sir K. WOOD
I am not going to be tempted into discussing a question which we have just debated at some length. We were discussing only a little while ago the question of auditors and how people should know the law, and I think 1930 we very exhaustively dealt with that topic. What we have to consider now are the very extraordinary words of this Amendment, and my answer is that it would obviously defeat the intentions of the Measure. It would, by a little ingenious working, mean that members of a council could persist in their illegal courses, and obviously such a proposal should not be contained in this Bill. We have had endless discussion of the question of the £500 and the particular methods adopted to enforce the law, and I am content now to say that, so far as this Amendment is concerned, I cannot advise the House to accept it, because not only is it ridiculous on the face of it, but it would defeat the intention of the Bill.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
Is it not the case that all the Amendments dealing with the £500 were closured upstairs? When have we had an opportunity of discussing them?
§ Sir K. WOOD
If I remember aright, the hon. Lady gave many lengthy disquisitions on the iniquity of the £500, with very great force, no doubt. I think it was mentioned on almost every day on which the Committee sat and that the only day when it was not mentioned was the day on which the Labour party absented themselves in a body and did not attend.
§ Mr. GILLETT
I support the Amendment, and I confess that the way in which the Parliamentary Secretary has dealt with it seems rather amazing, in view of the way in which he has let London down. We can commend the Minister of Health if he is looking well after the interests of his own city, but the Parliamentary Secretary might have watched over the interests, if not of the London borough councils, at any rate of the London County Council, because it seems to me that when you consider what the figure of £500 means, having regard to the total 1931 expenditure of London—an expenditure larger than that of many countries on the Continent—the £500 is a mere nothing. The hon. Gentleman was, I believe, at one time a member of the London County Council. It is probable that they did not allow him to sit on the Finance Committee, but, if he had had that privilege, he would have been aware that this sum is absolutely nothing. When you are on the Finance Committee, the bills come up in vast numbers, and the members of the committee sign them without the smallest idea in many cases as to their details, but they sign them on the word of the chairman of the committee.
I have myself signed many accounts on the word of Conservative chairmen of many committees, and it is impossible for the members of finance committees to know all the accounts that come before them; yet, when a proposal is made that some opportunity might be given of reviewing something that has taken place, the Parliamentary Secretary treats it rather as a joke, and says that anyone ought to be exceedingly glad to go to the Courts and explain what he has done on the London County Council at his own expense. It would no doubt add to the profits of the legal profession of the hon. Gentleman, and, therefore, I understand the way in which he looks at the matter and why he seems to think it would be a pleasant afternoon's outing for a member to explain all these various accounts to the Court, but to the ordinary member of a local authority these things are nothing like so easy, nor is attendance at a Court quite so pleasing as it would seem to be to the Parliamentary Secretary.
This matter is far more serious than the Parliamentary Secretary wishes us to think. One of the greatest problems, as anyone who has served on a local governing body in London knows, is the difficulty of getting suitable men to serve on these bodies; and I say this irrespective of party. I had at one time the duty of getting a list of names for a borough council, and at another time I had the duty of getting a list of names for the London County Council from the political party with which I was connected, so that I am not speaking on this question without knowledge of what it means to go about trying to find suitable men to stand as candidates for 1932 election to these bodies. I am perfectly certain that if you could interview members of other parties they would tell you exactly the same thing as to the difficulty of getting men to stand. When you come to the position created by this Bill, what you find is, that when you ask these men and women to serve on these bodies the whole liability which they may incur is left uncertain, for the Clauses of the Bill place in the hands of the auditors such amazing powers that no one will know exactly the position in which he stands.
The whole matter really comes down to two points. One is this point of the liability imposed upon members, with which I have tried to deal, and the other point is the matter that has been raised in regard to wages. The amount of money that has been placed in the Clause practically prevents any experiments in the wages question. I should have been glad if the hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) were here, because I should like to say with what amazement I listened to his speech. If this Clause had been in operation a number of years ago, when his party was in control of the London County Council, the work of bringing into force a system of wages by which trade union rates were recognised would never have come about. This Bill would have made it impossible, and the Progressive party of the London County Council would have been called what was then the equivalent of the term Bolshevist, and told that they must adopt the wages that were in force by local authorities in the various districts in London, and that if they did not do this they would be disqualified. This is one of the most serious objections to this Bill. In the past the great municipalities have done a great work as pioneers in the question of wages. Supposing that to-day a body said they wanted to give their employés a week's holiday with pay; supposing the London County Council decided to put it into force, they would be penalised by this Bill, and what might be very useful reforms in regard to the treatment of employés of a great council would be rendered impossible.
It is a. disaster that this Bill should prevent work of this kind, and all because the Minister of Health is dissatisfied with 1933 four or five councils. That is practically what he has told us. The right hon. Gentleman might bear in mind that if we are going to give self-government to any set of people, we are not going to have all the councils or public bodies doing exactly what he wants at a certain definite time; and if we think a mistake has been made, the wisest thing is to recognise that time will inevitably cure ills of that kind, because the great underlying principle is that the people decide policy, and that is why the right hon. Gentleman is making such a mistake in regard to this Bill. I view it with very great concern. I think London is going to suffer very much as a result of it. To have auditors going about in the way we have heard will be most unfortunate, and it can only have an evil effect upon councils, because the great difficulty which there is now to get men and women to serve will be greatly increased.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must point out that the hon. Member has been discussing the whole Bill. On the first Amendment I allowed great scope, but hon. Members must please adhere as closely as possible to the Amendment.
§ Mr. PALING
I have listened to speeches of Ministers in which they have said much in reply to an Amendment, but nothing about the Amendment, but I have never heard such a successful effort as that of the Parliamentary Secretary just now. He was successful in jibbing at the Amendment, but he said not a word as to why the £500 was included in the Bill. He contented himself with saying that there had been a lot said about this. There was a lot said from our side in Committee, but, as far as his side was concerned, the answer was vague. An answer is due to the House as to why the £500 was included, and it is not treating the House with courtesy to avoid the question in the manner just illustrated by the Parliamentary Secretary. After all, he must have some reasons. The Minister himself indicated that he hardly knew. Somebody had put down figures varying from 1 to 1,000,000 and, pricking them with a pin, had hit on the £500. It appears now that he knows no more about it than he did then. Arguments have been adduced showing how arbitrarily this £500 is likely to work, even in one council and certainly as between one council and another. It might be that to one council representing 1934 200,000 or 300,000 inhabitants, £500 would be a small sum, but to another representing 17,000 or 18,000, it would be a very large sum, and the Minister has not made the slightest attempt to show how it is likely to work. I would like to ask him whether he can give the House any idea as to whether the £500 is likely to act in the direction of some of the illustrations put forward by the Parliamentary Secretary.
There is another question I would like to ask. I am told that an auditor has already indicated to certain authorities in London that, in regard to the question of wages being paid for holidays and sick pay, he will have to review the whole position, and that he is not quite sure that he will not have to surcharge. Are we to understand that if more than £500 is involved in this question of payment for holidays and sick pay, the members of the councils responsible are likely to be surcharged; and that if they failed in their appeal they are to be disfranchised for five years and have a stigma put upon them which is equal to a stigma of being guilty of corruption? These are serious things which the Minister ought to answer. A glib reply such as we have had from the Parliamentary Secretary is a positive insult to the House. What is going to be the position of some of the smaller authorities? The Parliamentary Secretary said something about the fact that these people went on to councils willing to break the law. I have known nobody who put up for election saying that if elected he was going deliberately to break the law. I should like to know what the hon. Gentleman means by a statement of that description, and when he refers to the Amendment as having the effect of enabling, say, a majority on a certain council going in with a declared intention of breaking the law, and arguing to themselves, "We can break the law this once because we can have one bite at the cherry, and then, after having had one bite we shall all be discharged and disfranchised for five years, but we will have another election and send another lot of our people in, and so we can go on ad infinitum"? Does he seriously put it before the House as a serious argument that any party would go before the election with a programme of that description? He knows very well it is not true, and he ought to be ashamed of himself for making such a suggestion. 1935 He knows that nothing of the kind is in the minds of these men. Most cases that are likely to come under this Bill arise from the utmost purity, with no question whatever of corruption in mind. In view of these facts, I am hoping that the Minister himself, as the most responsible person, is going to try to give a serious answer to the indictment that has been made with regard to the £500. Let him get up and explain why the figure was put in, and how it is likely to act. If he cannot explain that, let him tell the House that he cannot, and let him be man enough to withdraw it.
§ Mr. THURTLE
The Parliamentary Secretary is a most disappointing man. You never know whether you have got him. Even for a Conservative Minister, he shifts his ground with extraordinary ability. I was listening to him lees than two hours ago, and he said that the purpose of the Clause was to punish those who were deliberately and persistently breaking the law. "Persistently" is the whole point of this Amendment, and we ought to get his support for it, because we want to establish the point that members of local authorities shall not be surcharged until it is proved that they have been persistently breaking the law. "Persistently" surely involves the breaking the law on more than one occasion. That is why I say that the Parliamentary Secretary is so unreliable, because within two hours he has entirely shifted his ground. I said that we are merely asking in this Amendment that members of local authorities should be treated, as it were, as first offenders, that they should be given the benefit of the doubt, even if they have, as it appears to the Minister, committed some offences against the law, which surely might be reasonably conceded, the law being so vague and uncertain that they did not know what they were doing. Therefore, they ought to be given the same kind of chance that the first offender is given.
A greal deal has been said about the excellent services rendered to the community by men and women who serve on public authorities, and I think, before we impose upon them heavy penalties such as these, we ought at least to see that, in the matter of law, they are put on an equality with other people 1936 who are apt to transgress the criminal law for the first time. The whole point of our argument in connection with this Clause is that you are attempting to penalise opinion. It is a clash of opinion as between this new Daniel come to judgment, who is the district auditor, and the opinion of the local authorities. It is also a question of political opinion. I see that the Minister himself, speaking in Committee on this Clause, said:Under the new form, we divide cases of disallowance and surcharge into what I will call the ordinary and extraordinary. The ordinary are the cases of error made in good faith, which have been the subject of surcharge in the past and where the surcharge has frequently been paid. The extraordinary are cases in which disallowances are made in respect of expenditure whch is due to political policy rather than to purely local municipal considerations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee D), 23rd June, 1927; col. 42.]7.0.p.m.
Therefore, the point at issue as between the district auditor and a local authority is as to what is a reasonable political policy. The Minister will admit that in the Debate on the last Amendment his whole contention with regard to reasonableness was completely shattered. That was proved when the Minister said the point at issue was not whether a thing was reasonable or not, but whether it was so unreasonable as to become illegal. If the auditor is the judge as to the degree of unreasonableness which makes a thing illegal, he, surely, is the judge as to what is reasonable or not. The whole issue, therefore, is narrowed down to this. A local authority may have a policy which it holds quite sincerely, and may attempt by means of administration to carry that policy into effect, and the district auditor comes along and says, "In my view this is not a reasonable policy. Although you put this policy before the electors and it has been approved by them, and although you are carrying it out in good faith, and in all sincerity, and not believing that you are breaking the law, yet, in my view, exercising my judgment as to what is unreasonable and what is not, you are breaking the law, and I am going to punish you."
I do submit that in a situation like that, where everything is so vague, nebulous and uncertain, at least we might ask that, before final judgment is passed on these people, they should be given 1937 the benefit of the doubt, and that the first offence should not count. I am quite willing to concede that if a district auditor, in regard to any given act of policy, says, "This is illegal, and you have done something here which clearly transgresses the law," then, if a local authority deliberately flouts that opinion, having had the law laid down for it, and commits that act a second time, it may be said to have brought itself properly within the purview of this Clause. In that case it might be punished, though not to anything like the extent proposed in this Bill. Still, there would be reasonable ground for punishing it, but I think there is every reason why, as the law is so uncertain, members of a local authority should be given the benefit of the doubt, and should not be punished for the first offence.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
We hear a good deal about the limited number of the authorities upon whose case this Bill is based, and the relatively small number of offences which will possibly accrue under it, but I hold the view that this Bill is a kind of preparatory Bill. The Minister is preparing for developments in the realm of municipal administration, and this Bill is intended to deal with any advance that may take place in that direction. There are a number of public authorities who are now passing away from his school of thought to the school of thought represented on these Benches. They are being administered from an entirely different point of view, and the policy sought to be administered will be of a different character. The Minister is getting ready for that by providing himself or his office with these particular powers. The peculiarity about this law is its invidious character. You may have two members of the same town council. One may be a member of the water committee and another a member of the housing committee, and they may carry out almost identically the same policy in regard to the building of certain types of houses, and one man may be penalised under this Bill and, I take it, the other will not be touched at all. It leaves him entirely alone. This Bill refers to housing and education committees, and expenditure on certain town councils, but it does not refer to expenditure on other commodities, so that a certain policy may be pursued on certain committees and 1938 escape this Bill, but the same type of policy applied in other committees will bring the members of those committees under the whip of the Minister.
I should like to know how far this is going, and how members of local authorities are to be instructed as to what they are to do, and what the district auditor is likely to pass? For instance, I have seen examples lately. I suppose members of various authorities have been encouraged to pursue their policy, because of certain propaganda that is going on in the country. There has been an agitation over the question of the use of certain motor spirit. I saw in the papers that certain public authorities had refused to purchase a certain spirit, supposedly Russian, although it was cheaper than the spirit supplied from other companies. These authorities had deliberately chosen a more costly spirit instead of using what is known as R.O.P. What would their position be? We have heard all about the interests of the ratepayers. Surely it is in the interest of the ratepayer, if he can get a certain commodity of equal quality, that the cheaper commodity should be taken. Generally it is supposed that the interests of the electors and ratepayers are served by getting equal quality at the lowest possible price. If local authorities—I suppose Conservative in colour—because of political bias chose an expensive material as against a cheaper one, where will they stand under the Bill, and how is the district auditor going to deal with them? Is this only to apply to questions which arise over wages or allowances by Poor Law guardians? It is very difficult to know where this law can be made to stop and how it is going to apply.
Take the question of Poor Law authorities to whom this will apply. During the coal dispute of last year the Minister himself declared from that Box that the miners' dispute and their struggle had been maintained at the expense of the public purse, and that the public authorities had assisted the miners in maintaining their struggle. Are we to take it that he is to lay down the law in that particular way, and that the district auditor can say that in his opinion certain allowances should not be made? I suppose that the law can be enforced in that particular way for a purpose affecting a trade dispute where you have a question of the distress of a large 1939 number of people. Is this particular law going to be used toy a Conservative administration for the purpose of helping to break down industrial disputes, in the way in which it was indicated by the Minister in his speech during the dispute of last year it might possibly be done? It is because of questions of this description that we who are opposing this Measure desire that this particular Clause shall be altered in the way we suggest.
It is difficult to see why a sum of £500 has been selected. In the expenditure of local authorities £500 is a comparatively small amount. I suppose that on every committee and on some housing committees of some local authorities the difference between a Yale lock and another one can make a surcharge of £500 possible, or a slight alteration in the architecture or the front elevation of a cottage, or the fact that some housing committees may desire a more beautiful type of house, can be taken up by the district auditor, who may declare that in his opinion it is utterly unnecessary. Quality can come into the whole question, and because a local authority in its wisdom believes it is cheaper to pay for a good thing, the district auditor can say that, in his opinion, they are entirely wrong, and a surcharge can be made. In all questions of that description, where there is no moral obliquity or political obtuseness whatever, men can be pursued and driven out of public life, their goods can be distrained upon, and their wages and salaries can be garnisheed at the bidding of a district auditor, acting, very probatory, it may toe, because he has had some glimpse of what is in the mind of the Minister of Health and understands what the Minister probably desires in that direction. I am quite sure that anyone who does not know the mind of the present Minister of Health must be a very obtuse person, and he will know if a policy he is pursuing is acceptable to the Minister.
It is undoubted fact that this is directed against the Minister's own political opponents, and it is fair to assume that the district auditors are not immune from political tendencies. It is for these reasons that we are opposing this Bill all the way through, and it is because of the possibility of this small amount of 1940 surcharge of £500 that we urge this Amendment should be accepted, and that men should be given some freedom as far as public life is concerned.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I really must ask hon. Members once again not to speak on the whole Bill on each Amendment. It was done on the first Amendment, and now the same speeches are being repeated on other Amendments.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I hope I shall succeed, Mr. Speaker, in following your advice in the spirit and the letter. I did not intend to take part in the discussion on this Amendment, but I felt, and do feel still, that it was entitled to more recognition from the Government than it received in the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary. The hon. Gentleman attempted to dismiss it contemptuously by describing it as a claim that a council should have one bite, and he wanted to impress the House with the fact that he was very strongly opposed to any such policy. I hope that the borough councils, when the time comes for expressing their judgment on this Bill, will remember that the hon. Gentleman ranks them as lower than his dogs. It has always been regarded as the privilege of a dog to have one bite. The hon. Gentleman would not extend that privilege to the honourable people who serve us in the local authorities.
I think this is particularly an Amendment against which the Minister will have great difficulty in putting up a case. You have first of all to consider the ambiguity and the vagueness of the present words in the Bill in regard to the £500. I quite agree with the Minister that if you must take a lump sum it matters very little whether it be £500 or £l,000, because I have no doubt that all the objection that will be raised to the £500 could be equally raised against the £1,000. As I read his speeches, he has put that view with great force, and I think every one must admit there is a great deal to be said for it. But the very difficulty he encounters is the one which should induce him to give greater consideration to the possible consequences of the figure he has adopted. I may say, in passing, that the present Minister of Health seems to be frequently encountering difficulties in securing a reasonable basis for the Measures he introduces, and this one is no exception.
1941 Having secured our agreement that there would be difficulty in differentiating logically between the figure of £500 and that of £1,000, he should then recognise what inevitably follows. What may be legal for one authority within the Bill may be illegal for another authority which is also within the Bill; or, at any rate, if it be not legal, the action of one authority would not entail upon it the same consequences as would fall on another. Let me illustrate this. It might be, and I suppose it would be, and is, held to be illegal for the Poplar Board of Guardians to pay £4 a week to its manual workers. If the Poplar Board of Guardians were to do so, that would bring the members the banishment from public life prescribed in the Bill. On the other hand, if a small local authority in a rural district were to pay £4 a week to its manual workers, the fact that the amount so paid would not bring the total of the expenditure up to £500 would save the members of that council from being banished from public life. I think that is not disputed.
That brings me to this point, that having ascertained the difficulties of making the Measure equally applicable in all cases, we should take steps to protect as far as possible the people who are likely to come under the hammer. Neither the Minister nor any of his supporters has claimed that the class of people we are dealing with here are people with criminal intentions. The Bill is not designed to deal with that class, it is designed to deal with honest men. It is really a Measure to punish honest men. The men and women who come within its ambit are people who are just as honest and just as desirous of respecting the law as are the right hon. Gentleman and the auditor himself, but they misunderstand the law, and one can easily excuse them for that misunderstanding, because there is no definition of the law. It does not follow, because it is legal at the moment to pay £3 10s. a week to labourers in Poplar, that it will be legal to do so next year. The action takes place first and the punishment is to be laid down afterwards. The right hon. Gentleman always escapes from the contemplated punishment by saying, "Oh, but the Council have the right to appeal." I think that argument about the right of appeal has been shattered, and that no 1942 one now says that it will be sufficient protection for the honest man who has given his vote believing he was acting within the law. The Amendment asks that the auditor when he examines the accounts dealing with recurrent expenditure should intimate to the council what he regards to be so unreasonable that it amounts to illegality.
As I have pointed out already in another discussion, this Clause is aimed at poor men, not only honest men but poor men. It is laid down to this poor councillor that what he has been doing, however unconsciously is an illegal act, and that he is about to be surcharged. He has not the means to enable him to appeal to the Courts, and even though it be his first offence, it means that he is to be heaved out of public life. The Amendment says that he ought to get another chance. The auditor having laid it down that the expenditure is illegal, he will know that if he continues to sanction that expenditure in future he will do it with his eyes open, and be subject to the punishment of the Bill. I submit that is a very reasonable Amendment to put forward. If we have to accept the Bill, the Government should make it read in such a way that honest men who cannot afford to protect themselves by the right of appeal to the Courts should be protected in the manner indicated in the Amendment.
I had not intended to speak upon this particular Amendment, but one or two things which were said by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down have tempted me to get up, because I think he has omitted to give attention to important parts of the Bill which follow the particular Clause we are discussing. He has seen what some of his friends with less logical minds have not seen, that on this Amendment the question of the amount of £500, or why it should be £500, is entirely irrelevant. The question is not the amount of the surcharge which should entail disqualification, but whether any lump sum of any kind should form the basis of disqualification, or, rather, whether it should not be sought to take an entirely different test for those cases which are to be surcharged and those which are not, namely, whether or not a person has been surcharged twice for the same sort of expenditure. That being so, I have 1943 not to defend the figure of £500, but rather to defend the proposition that a lump sum of some kind should be fixed, and to show why the proposal in the Amendment is not one which can be accepted by the Government. It has been stated over and over again that a perfectly honest member of a local authority might very easily, although in good faith, and with no intention of breaking the law, be led into a course which would expose him to these penalties and disqualifications by reason of the caprice of a district auditor or a difference of opinion between one district auditor and another. That is not really what this Bill does, and any account of it which gives that impression is misleading, because it does not take into account the fact that we have endeavoured, and I think successfully, to put in careful and effective safeguards for the member of a local authority who makes a bona fide mistake.
Scorn has been poured upon the procedure of appeal which is provided in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman says the Bill is aimed at poor people, and poor people obviously cannot go to the Courts because of the risk of the cost which they may incur. I dispute that, in the first instance because I say that the cases which would come under this Clause are not the outcome of action taken by individual poor people merely to satisfy whims or caprices of their own, but are cases following on a deliberate policy adopted by a number of persons, and those who are responsible for persuading them to take up that policy will, I have no doubt, find means to protect them if they are surcharged by an auditor. That is not all I have to say. The poor man who has made a mistake unintentionally, who in his doubt as to what the law was has been led into voting for, or sanctioning, or becoming responsible for, expenditure which afterwards is shown to be or is deemed to be illegal by the auditor, has not to appeal to the Courts. He has an appealing to the Minister. [Interruption.] Really, hon. Members are getting a little unreasonable. First of all, they say it is so expensive to appeal to the Courts that a man cannot undertake it, and when I point out that he can go to the Minister, which costs him nothing at all, they apparently are still not satisfied. 1944 If he can show that he acted in the belief that his action was within the law, he can get a declaration from the Minister. [Interruption.] The Minister will not always be a Member of this party.
On the point of whether this proposal to allow two bites is going to work out in practice, I say it is perfectly obvious that it is a method by which the members of a local authority, if so desiring, can, by a careful and ingenious distribution of functions among themselves, so arrange their proceedings that the same person does not ever have to be surcharged twice. Therefore, it is merely another method of wrecking the Bill and defeating the object with which it is put forward.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
The Minister of Health said at the beginning of his speech that the figure of £500 had nothing to do with the matter.
The figure of £500 worries me in this way. The cheap and easy appeal to the Minister is only possible when the sum is under £500. That is one of the things which we talked about in Committee, and that is why the figure of £500 is important. In the case of a large body, a very small mistake on items of expenditure might easily bring the surcharge over £500. For instance, a difference of a farthing a week on certain items of London County Council expenditure would mean more than £500. That is where the £500 comes in.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
Sometimes the Minister finds me out, and sometimes I find him out. I admit that the Minister is right on this occasion. Now I want to come to the question of costs. The Minister stated in Committee what is the law and the practice. He was asked who paid the costs if the auditor lost the 1945 action, and he said the ratepayers pay the costs, because the auditor is supposed to be acting on behalf of the ratepayers. On the other hand, supposing the member surcharged lost his case, he would have to pay his own costs. These costs are not a little thing, either for the ratepayers or for the individual, if a case goes right up to the House of Lords, as happened recently in one instance. Even though the Council are proved to be right the costs in that case will fall upon the ratepayers—the whole of their own costs and the whole of the costs of the auditor. They may be the costs of a case through three Courts, right up to the House of Lords. I say that is a monstrous thing. In every case the ratepayers have to pay, and the individual may have to pay an enormous amount of costs incurred by having to go up to the House of Lords. All those who have taken advice in regard to their private affairs by consulting a solicitor or a barrister know that they are generally told that the law is a very uncertain method indeed. Consequently, it is almost impossible for a layman to judge what the cost of an appeal is likely to be. It is not easy for a learned gentleman to do this, and that is why we are pressing this Amendment.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
The Minister of Health said that it was not his duty to explain why the sum of £500 had been inserted in this Measure. All he said was that it was his duty to try and fined some particular test which would meet all sorts of cases and which would come under the terms of the Bill. By making that statement we feel that the Minister has more or less justified the criticism which we have made from these benches, namely, that the right hon. Gentleman has deliberately set out to find ambiguous words in order that no administrator would know whether he was doing right or wrong, when he was culpable, or when he was acting in accordance with the desires of the Minister. This will only create a world of uncertainty, and local men anxious to do the best that they can for their own district are going to be prevented in many cases from giving their services to their particular locality because of the conditions laid down in this Bill.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That argument has already been used by other hon. Mem- 1946 bers, and I must point out that the hon. Member is contravening the Rule by repeating arguments which have already been used.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The Minister of Health, in reply to my arguments, said that this figure of £500 was of little or no concern, and the second Amendment is really consequential upon the Amendment now under discussion. It was because I thought the second Amendment would make the position clear to every local administrator that I entered into the Debate at all. The Minister of Health said a moment ago, when referring to the poor persons who might be brought under the terms of this Bill, that it is not quite fair to argue that it affects poor persons any more than the rich section of the community. We have been told that it would not be the individual who had been performing his local duty as he thought in a perfectly justifiable and legitimate manner who would be called upon to appear before the High Court. My contention is that it is the poor person who is likely to be brought under this Clause, and that has been fully justified by the statements which have been made by the Minister of Health. The figure of £500 is aimed at the right hon. Gentleman's political opponents, and that is something unworthy of any Minister sitting on the Treasury Bench.
If the right hon. Gentleman will only try to show an element of consistency, he must admit that his political opponents administering in any local sense are quite as desirous of doing their best as any Members of his own party, and to create a world of uncertainty by this figure and a position under which no individual knows whether he is doing right or wrong is the last thing which the Minister ought to do. This figure of £500 is a very dangerous one, and ought to be eliminated. The Amendment which we have moved ought to be included so that when local town councillors have done what they conceive to be right, but which the auditor may decide is not right, they shall not be culpable and be placed in a position in which they will have to appeal to the Minister. I would not like to be the person who under those circumstances would have to appeal to the present Minister of Health. If a comparatively poor person is concerned in a matter of 1947 this kind, lack of finances would prevent him from getting justice, with the inevitable result that he would be disqualified, and would not be able to serve his locality for a period of five years. This Bill and the figure of £500 are not only inconsistent with the right hon. Gentleman's own actions and speeches, but they are inconsistent with the actions and speeches of the Members of his own party. Might I remind the Minister of Health, merely as an illustration, that each political party when appealing to the electorate is entitled to submit its own programme, and, if a programme be approved and afterwards applied, that should not be regarded as a criminal offence. The Members of the party opposite not long ago made an offer of £1 per acre for arable land—
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I am only illustrating what the party opposite did when they were appealing to the electorate. Town councillors are elected to perform their duty to the electorate. If
|Division No. 463.]||AYES.||[7.42 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Christie, J. A.||Goff, Sir Park|
|Albery, Irving James||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Gower, Sir Robert|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Clarry, Reginald George||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)|
|Alexander. Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Clayton, G. C.||Grant, Sir J. A.|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Grotrian, H. Brent|
|Atkinson, C.||Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Colfox, Major Wm. Philip||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hacking, Douglas H.|
|Balniel Lord||Cooper, A. Duff||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)|
|Bearnish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Cope, Major William||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hanbury, C.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Bann, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Harland, A.|
|Bennett, A. J.||Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Harrison, G. J. C.|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Dalkeith, Earl of||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootie)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Henn, Sir Sydney H.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Dawson, Sir Phillip||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B.||Drewe, C.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Ellis, R. G.||Hills, Major John Waller|
|Briscoe. Richard George||Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Hilton, Cecil|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Everard, W. Lindsay||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St. Marylebone)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||False, Sir Bertram G.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Fenby, T. D.||Homan, C. W. J.|
|Buchan, John||Fermoy, Lord||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Burman, J. B.||Fielden, E. B.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster. Mossley)|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Forrest, W.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Campbell, E. T.||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis|
|Cassels, J. D.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Huntingfield, Lord|
|Camber, Maj. Sir Herbt. R.(Prtsmth. S.)||Gates, Percy||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Hurst, Gerald B.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Gilmour Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)|
§ after a period of 12 months or three years they find themselves giving holidays to their employés, or exceeding the amount of wages paid by other local authorities, they may ultimately find themselves in the hands of the auditor, and I suggest that that is very unfair. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to try and show some element of political fairness. Let the person undertaking public work understand exactly where he is, and, when he makes a mistake according to the interpretation of the auditor, he should at least have the chance in his future work of putting that matter right without being compelled to appeal to the Minister of Health or to the High Court. I think this Amendment is one which ought to appeal to the sense of fairness of the Minister of Health.
§ Mr. LANSBURY rose—
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 219; Noes, 115.
|James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Jephcott, A. R.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Oakley, T.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Starry-Deans, R.|
|Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Perring, Sir William George||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Preto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Lamb, J. Q.||Pilcher, G.||Sudden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Preston, William||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Locker-Lampoon, G. (Wood Green)||Price, Major C. W. M.||Tasker, R. Indigo|
|Long, Major Eric||Raine, Sir Walter||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Looker. Herbert William||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell.|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Rice, Sir Frederick||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Vaughan-Morgan. Col. K. P.|
|McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Waddington, R.|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Rye, F. G.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Salmon, Major I.||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Margesson, Captain D.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Mason, Lieut-Col. Glyn K.||Sandeman, N. Stewart||Wells, S. R.|
|Meller, R. J.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dalrymple-|
|Merriman, F. B||Sanderson, Sir Frank||Wilson, R. R. (Safford, Lichfield)|
|Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Savery, S. S.||Winterton. Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie||Withers, John James|
|Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Moore, Sir Newton J.||Shepperson, E. W.||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Morder, Col. W. Grant||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.).|
|Moreing, Captain A. H.||Sinclair, Col. T.(Queen's Univ., Belfst)||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Murchison, Sir Kenneth||Skelton, A. N.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Nelson, Sir Frank||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Slithers, Waldron||Mr. Penny and Captain Wallace.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hardie, George D.||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Harris, Percy A.||Scurr, John|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Shaw, Rt. Hon Thomas (Preston)|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hayday, Arthur||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Baker, Walter||Hayes, John Henry||Sinclair. Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Barnes, A.||Hirst, G. H.||Sitch. Charles H.|
|Batey, Joseph||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Hudson J. H. (Huddersfield)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Bondfield, Margaret||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Bromley, J.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Buts)||Lansbury, George||Stephen, Campbell|
|Buchanan, G.||Lawrence, Susan||Sutton, J E.|
|Cape, Thomas||Lawson, John James||Thomson, Travelyan (Middlesbro. W.)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lee, F.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lindley, F. W.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Livingstone, A. M.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Compton, Joseph||Lowth, T.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Connolly, M.||Lunn, William||Townend, A. E.|
|Cove, W. G.||Mac Donald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Mackinder, W.||Viant, S. P.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Wellhead, Richard C.|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Day, Colonel Harry||March, S.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Dennison, R.||Montague, Frederick||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Duncan, C.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Murnin, H.||Westwood, J.|
|Gardner, J. P.||Naylor, T. E.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Oliver, George Harold||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Paling, W.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Gillett, George M.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Goslings, Harry||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Greenall, T.||Ponsonby, Arthur||Windsor, Walter|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Potts, John S.||Wright, W.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Groves, T.||Riley, Ben||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grundy, T. W.||Ritson, J.||Mr. T. Henderson and Mr. Whiteley.|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Robinson, W. C.(Yorks, W. R., Elland)|
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."1950
§ The House divided: Ayes, 225; Noes, 112.
|Division No. 464.]||AYES.||[7.50 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Murchison, Sir Kenneth|
|Albery, Irving James||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Goff, Sir Park||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Alexander. Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Gower, Sir Robert||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G.(Ptrsf'ld.)|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Grant, Sir J. A.||Field, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Oakley, T.|
|Atkinson, C.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Grotrian, H. Brent||Herring, Sir William George|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Balniel, Lord||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Bearish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Hacking, Douglas H.||Phillips, Mabel|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Hail, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Pitcher, G.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Preston, William|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Hanbury, C.||Raine, Sir Walter|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Harland, A.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Harrison, G. J. C.||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft.||Hartington, Marquess of||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Henderson, Lt.-Col. Sir V. L. (Bootle)||Rye F. G.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Salomon, Major I.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Hills, Major John Wailer||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Hilton, Cecil||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Buchan, John||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Burman, J. B.||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Sassosn, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Savery, S. S.|
|Campbell, E. T.||Homan, C. W. J.||Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Cassels, J. D.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belf'st.)|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Huntingfield, Lord||Skelton, A. N.|
|Christie, J. A.||Hurd, Percy A.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Hurst, Gerald B.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Clayton, G. C.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cent'l)||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Jephcott, A. R.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Colfox, Major William Phillips||Jones. Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Stuart, Hon. J (Moray and Nairn)|
|Cope, Major William||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Suqden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Tasker, R. Indigo|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Lamb, J. Q.||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Locker-Lampoon. G. (Wood Green)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Long, Major Eric||Burton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Looker, Herbert William||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Waddington, R.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.||Luce Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Macquisten, F. A.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Drewe, C.||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Ellis, R. G.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Wells, S. R.|
|Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Margesson, Captain D.||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Meller, R. J.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Fenby, T. D.||Merriman, F. B.||Withers, John James|
|Fermoy, Lord||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Fielden, E. B.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Forrest, W.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Monsen, Eyres, Corn. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Morden, Col. W. Grant|
|Gates, Percy||Moreing, Captain A. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Morris, R. H.||Mr. Penny and Captain Wallace.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Attlee, Clement Richard||Barnes, A.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Bate, Joseph|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hilisbro')||Baker, Walter||Beckett, John (Gateshead)|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Bromley, J.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Buchanan, G.||Lansbury, George||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Cape, Thomas||Lawrence, Susan||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lawson, John James||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lee, F.||Snell, Harry|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lindley, F. W.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Compton, Joseph||Livingstone, A. M.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Connolly, M.||Lowth, T.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Cove, W. G.||Lunn, William||Sutton, J. E.|
|Dalton, Hugh||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Mackinder, W.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Dennison, R.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Duncan, C.||Mac Neill-Weir, L.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||March, S.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Gardner, J. P.||Montague, Frederick||Townend, A. E.|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham. N.)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Murnin, H.||Viant, S. P.|
|Gillett, George M.||Naylor, T. E.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Gosling, Harry||Oliver, George Harold||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Greenall, T.||Paling, W.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Parkinson, John Alien (Wigan)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Groves, T.||Ponsonby, Arthur||Westwood, J.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Potts, John S.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Riley, Ben||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Hardie, George D.||Ritson, J.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Harris, Percy A.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)||Windsor, Waiter|
|Hayday, Arthur||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Wright, W.|
|Hayes, John Henry||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Hirst, G. H.||Scurr, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. T. Henderson and Mr. Whiteley.|
§ Mr. MARCH
I beg to move, in page 1, line 9, to leave out the words "five years," and to insert instead thereof the words six months."
I do not think that the Minister can nicely refuse this Amendment, because I am certain that he is not inclined to have such a penalty imposed upon any person in a local authority who may make a mistake. Everyone is liable to make mistakes, and honest mistakes can be made as well as bad mistakes, which the Minister seems always to have in his mind. At a meeting the other day I heard an archdeacon say: "Everyone is liable to make mistakes; they make mistakes every day." Indeed, he went so far as to say that the person who never makes a mistake never gets very far ahead. That also applies with great force to the Minister of Health himself. In the matter of Poplar's position, the Minister made a mistake, and I am inclined to believe he made an honest mistake; and it was not because it was done hastily or hurriedly, or with any pressure upon him, that he made that mistake, and it could not have been due to want of knowledge of the law, because he has the opportunity of getting the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown before he gives a decision. I do not think he did it because of his great 1954 love for Poplar or the Parliamentary Secretary's love for Poplar. He has no love for Poplar or for any of its representatives. He has proved that over and over again.
A little further on we shall find that the House will be asked to indemnify the Minister for having made that mistake, and if the Minister, as I believe he is entitled to be, is indemnified for his honest mistake, there is all the more reason why humble persons on the borough councils or boards of guardians or boards of education should also have consideration given to them. With regard to an appeal, we find that it is only where a surcharge has been imposed that appeals are allowed, and then comes this disqualification period of five years, which we think is exorbitant for a case of that kind. Having made a mistake and committed an error and the penalty for a surcharge of £500 or over has been imposed there is no question of a reduction or an opportunity to appeal against the five years disqualification. If the surcharge be upheld, persons are unable to put up as a candidate for any local authority. That is a very severe sentence which ought not to stand. We consider six months would be ample to meet a case of that kind. If we were to apply the same principle to the Minister 1955 of Health who committed an honest mistake, and we imposed a penalty in proportion he would be disqualified for 50 years. I think we ought to try to equalise things. Ordinary people who do not know much about the law do their best to deal out justice to their employés and transact the business of the council in the way of contracts for goods, and it is not right that they should be so penalised if they make a mistake which is pointed out to them probably two years after the mistake has been made, for the audit does not take place probably for a year after the year in which the mistake has been made. All this disqualification ought not to be in the Bill. I hope that the Minister will give the Amendment his consideration and realise that he has made a mistake.
§ Mr. SCURR
I beg to second the Amendment.
It seems to me that the figure of five years, like the figure of £500, has been selected haphazardly. Having £500 as a surcharge, the Ministry told themselves that they would have five years as a. disqualification. I could have understood it if the Ministry had made the proposal that the disqualification should be one period of service on the council. Local authorities which are brought within the provisions of this Bill are elected for three years with the exception of a small number of aldermen. Here we have a period which is neither two periods of the council's existence nor one. The five years is selected without any basis at all, and I suggest that there is no reason at all why this period should be inserted in the Bill. On the other hand, I think the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for South Poplar (Mr. March) are absolutely cogent. If a man has honestly made a mistake, he is going through all the legal paraphernalia of the provisions of this Bill, and that will be quite enough worry and responsibility for him without having these further penalties imposed. A six months' period seems much more reasonable than the one incorporated in the Bill.
I do not suppose the Parliamentary Secretary is in any sense of the word open to conversion on this point. The Ministry are in a condition of what the theologians call invincible ignorance, and 1956 persons who are in invincible ignorance cannot be reasoned with. They are only to be pitied. We can only pity the Members of the Ministry responsible for this Bill. They are really trying by a side wind to bring into this country a procedure that is carried on abroad. They believe in central control of local government and that they ought to follow a French method. They have not the courage to say that, but they appoint a district auditor over whom the Minister himself has no control, who goes along his own sweet way in the same position as a Judge of the High Court with nobody to call his action into account except that we can call the High Court Judge to account by resolution. We cannot attack the Minister on the auditor's work, because the Minister is not responsible for it, and merely to move the reduction of the salary of the Minister will not affect the district auditor at all. That gentleman goes and makes his interpretations of the law and says that people who are giving their full time and energy to the service of the council are to suffer as they will be made to suffer under this Bill. It is an absolute scandal, and I would prefer the Minister to be honest about it and say what he really wants instead of proposing this Bill which only aims at five councils in the country.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Scurr) said that the Ministry of Health were not prepared to accept any reasonable Amendments to this Bill, because I notice that on the 20th November the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) stated at a Labour meeting thatMr. Chamberlain had so far amended the Bill and brought forward other proposals that authorities in London recognised that it was impossible to resist the Bill any further.Amendments were accepted in Committee, and it is unfair to suggest that the Ministry of Health are not prepared to accept any Amendment to this Bill. The hon. Member for Bermondsey is certainly an authority on the matter, and, when he says that the Bill has been so far amended and other proposals have been brought forward that it is impossible to resist the Bill any further, I think his view may be accepted.
§ Dr. SALTER
I am bound to say that is an entire misquotation of my speech 1957 on that occasion. It is a reporter's error, anyhow, and the report did not in the least degree reflect what I said.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I was quoting from the "Daily Herald," which I thought the hon. Gentleman would not dispute. Dealing with the Amendment in question, I think there were unfair accusations against my Department, because I gathered we were guilty of what the hon. Gentleman who spoke last calls invincible ignorance on this matter. I suggest to him that he might reconsider his own view of this particular Amendment. I think he has said that if a particular authority made a genuine error or honest mistake, five years' disqualification would follow so far as the members of that borough council were concerned who made this particular error. If he looks at the terms of the Bill, he will see that it is only in the event of a member of the local authority being unable to satisfy the Court that he acted reasonably or in the belief that the action was authorised by law. I put it to the hon. Gentleman who has had many years in municipal life, that if a person acts neither reasonably nor in the belief that his action was authorised by law, it is not a cruel or harsh thing that he should be disqualified for five years from service in public life in this country.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I have too much respect for the hon. Member to think that it would ever happen to him. [Interruption.] Under this Bill, the penalties are increased, and I think rightly so. I must put it to the House that if a person acts in this way and is guilty of persistent illegality, which has been the subject of reference by the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal party, I do not think a member of a local authority can complain if he is disqualified from serving for five years. If he is unable to go to a Court and say, "I acted reasonably and in the belief that my actions were authorised by law," I do not think he has much ground for complaint. As regards the exact period of five years, we have taken 1958 what may be called a middle course. A person who was guilty of certain offences under the Act of 1889 was disqualified from service on local authorities for a period of seven years.
§ Sir K. WOOD
If the hon. Member is interested in it&—I hope he is not&—it was corruption. In this case, so far as ratepayers are concerned, the loss is very considerable indeed. There is no reason why they should permit the offence, and my own belief is that, after the passage of this Bill, we shall have very few people, perhaps no one, who will suffer the disqualification mentioned in this Clause. At any rate, my reply to the hon. Member is that, if a person acts unreasonably and in flagrant disregard of the law, I do not think he can complain that he is going to be disqualified from serving on a public body for five years. For that reason, I must advise the House to reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. OLIVER
Does the hon. Gentleman justify two penalties being imposed for one offence, because, if a member is surcharged, he is likely to be proceeded against in civil proceedings for the refund of the money, and, in addition to that, he now suggests a penalty of a five years' disqualification?
§ Sir K. WOOD
I think the answer to that is that unfortunately the remedy of the surcharge has proved wholly illusory, and that is the difficulty of the position. If we had been able to enforce the provision, as was said in the Debate I quoted, and make the persons concerned really suffer for the offence they had committed, there would be some reason for not proceeding with this Bill, but it has not been possible to inflict the penalty, and it is for that reason that we have been obliged to adopt this other remedy. It is simply on that account that the further penalty is imposed in this Measure.
§ Mr. GROVES
I desire to support the Amendment. The main provisions of the Bill do not affect West Ham, but the work connected with our Education Department will be in large measure affected by it. Therefore, I am very 1959 interested that we should change five years to six months, and I do not think we ought to move that six months be inserted. I would much rather have a Judge-made decision than a Ministerial decision. I think the law you are now going to impose upon us has not that degree of general British understanding associated with exposition in the Courts. I think it is an imposition by Ministerial minds, who desire to impose restrictions on local authorities and the particular branch with which I am dealing, that is, the education side. The reason I am against this is because in West Ham we are obviously confronted with increased expenditure connected with the educational side. Whether we like it or no, we face it. We are feeding so many additional children that in the ensuing year we shall incur over £10,000 additional expenditure. Can the Parliamentary Secretary assure us that this expenditure, which has been incurred in face of the powers and the persons sent us, again by Ministerial authority, will not come under the ban of the Government auditor? There have been times in the history of this country when men in this House have been justified in standing up against the application of the law of the land in certain specific instances, and when the law is being used merely to circumscribe the activities of local representatives merely because in their application they are broad and democratic. I come back to my point and ask the hon. Gentleman whether he can assure me whether the £10,000 additional expenditure that we are compelled to incur exclusively for feeding school children, mainly resulting from the Ministerial decision to impose the three guardians instead of 50, will not come under the ban of the local district auditor.
If it does, it is reasonable for me to assume that that £10,000 will be considered to be excessive expenditure. From all other standpoints, moral or human, the expenditure is justified, but probably from the standpoint of the district auditor it is not only not justified but it would bring the person responsible for it within the ambit of this imposition. I suppose it is reasonable to assume that we should find ourselves surcharged jointly or severally. 1960 There are about ten of us on the Special Schools and Welfare Sub-committee. If we were warned by the local district auditor that this expenditure of £10,000 was unlawful, I could not come here and say we should withhold our work and discontinue. I think this position ought to be faced. In the history of civic administration there is a certain moment at which men have to face realities and not abstractions.
Hon. Members will remember the origin of the adoptive Act which enables local authorities to feed school children. A Committee appointed by this House, after very comprehensive investigation, arrived at a decision and laid it down that the physical deterioration of Britain's manhood was due to the malnutrition of the children. I defend the position, whatever may be the consequences in the future, that the children in the County Borough of West Ham who are in attendance at our schools and need feeding, must be fed. If we did not incur this £10,000 a year additional expenditure, whatever may be the consequences under this Bill, there could be no defence for the men who refused to incur the necessary financial commitments in order to feed the children. Can the Parliamentary Secretary assure me that in the incurring of this £10,000 expenditure we shall not be surcharged? There is no reply, and therefore I think we may reasonably assume that we shall come within the ban which is placed upon people because they are prepared to face the obligations of civic administration.
§ Mr. GROVES
The hon. Member wishes to know how many members of the Special Schools Sub-committee will be affected. Ten members will be affected. I tell the Parliamentary Secretary that he will be doing England no great service if he removes from public life ten people connected with the administration of this money in the County Borough of West Ham, and imposes a disfranchisement of five years upon them. That will not be merely a punishment of a particular individual or individuals. These persons have been responsible for this particular expenditure, the money has in reality been expended, and when I speak here 12 months hence I hope that I shall be able to say that a further £10,000 has 1961 been expended in feeding the poor children of West Ham. We shall say that we have spent a further £10,000 on these poor children, and we shall be proud of it. If you surcharge or disfranchise the ten people concerned, you will be punishing the council and the area, because most of these people have been civic administrators for over ten years. They are thoroughly qualified and acquainted with all the details connected with our great Borough, the second largest borough in the kingdom, with a population of over 300,000 and a school population of over 62,000.
By the interposition of the powers given in this Bill, you are repressing and oppressing the democratic working class thought in this country and there is no justification for such action. It is very extraordinary that in a country such as ours, where the democratic march has gone steadily on by repressing the Crown, the Barons and the Lords, that you should now be proposing measures of an oppressive and repressive character on democratic public representatives. It is a Gilbertian situation. I warn the Parliamentary Secretary that we in our borough have had about enough of it. We have been trying to prevent the destitute from becoming greater in number, and now we are presented with a Bill which will crib, cabin and confine the activities of working class representatives. Such a course cannot be defended in the Courts, and what cannot be defended in the Law Courts should not be defended in the British Parliament. I support the Amendment because I feel that the borough which I have the honour to represent will be enmeshed in it. It will not make the work of administration more pleasant in areas like West Ham. We have had enough, we have suffered enough, and we do not want such a Bill. I hope that hon. Members will support us when they realise the kind of injustice that has been and is to be imposed upon working class democratic representatives in this country, men and women whose only disability is that they have no money and they have not the financial power to defend their interests in the Courts and, because of that, a great, strong, Tory Government with money takes advantage of the representatives of the poor.
§ Mr. VIANT
My hon. Friend the Member for Stratford (Mr. Groves) has raised 1962 a very important point. The Bill is devised to act as a deterrent. It will have a deterrent effect in more ways than one. My hon. Friend has given an instance where an expenditure of £10,000 has been embarked upon in circumstances of administration from which the members of the West Ham authority could not escape. They have been compelled as administrators to come to the assistance of these children. The expenditure has been incurred to the extent of £10,000, and I understand that 10 persons are responsible for the administration of that amount. According to the provisions of this Bill, those people are liable to a surcharge of £1,000 each. From the point of view of equity, instead of laying down a definite penalty of five years, the Government might have laid down a graduated scale, because the circumstances spoken of by the hon. Member for Stratford are twice as bad as those anticipated in the Bill. The men or women who have been responsible for an expenditure involving a surcharge of £500, are to be banned from public life for five years, and those who have incurred a surcharge of £10,000 are only to be banned from public life for five years. There is no sense of equity in it.
It will be exceedingly difficult for the Parliamentary Secretary to defend that principle, although I know he is exceedingly clever. I would not care to be put in his position and be asked to defend it. We have had experience of the Parliamentary Secretary defending some very extraordinary principles. The Bill will be a deterrent in a way that has not been anticipated by those responsible for drawing it up. Since when have we been confronted with a situation where we have a surplus of capable men and women prepared to stand for election on local authorities? I should be pleased to learn that even the Conservative party are in that fortunate position. At the present time, they are confronted with a situation in the rural and urban districts where they are at a loss to find candidates to contest seats.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain FitzRoy)
I do not think that that matter has anything to do with the Amendment.
§ Mr. VIANT
I am giving an illustration of the effect of this Bill; the diffi- 1963 culty there will be in getting men and women to stand as candidates for local authorities. At the moment no political party has a surplus of efficient men and women who are prepared to come forward as candidates, and when the penal Clauses of this Bill become known we shall be far less able to persuade them to stand as candidates. What are the reasons for these penalties imposed? For what crime are they to be imposed? They are to be imposed for a crime which is undefined. There is no definition in the Bill, and rather than run this risk men and women will not allow their names to be put forward as candidates. If a man or woman serving on a local authority commits an error they are to be penalised, although they may have done so with the best of intentions. There is no give and take in this matter. The Minister, or his Department, takes the matter up. It comes to the Court, and ultimately it is found that the right hon. Gentleman, through the recommendations of the district auditor, has brought a charge which cannot be proved. But the Minister, or his Department, is not to be subjected to any penalty whatever. There is no sense of equity there. Our Amendment is quite reasonable. If it is not, then the right hon. Gentleman should suggest an Amendment which will be more in keeping with the equity and justice than the Clause is at the present time. On these grounds I support the Amendment.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The Parliamentary Secretary gave us just now the greatest condemnation of the provisions of this Bill and the greatest justification for the Amendment we are now moving. He quoted from an Act of Parliament which imposes penalties on persons who act corruptly, take bribes and generally behave themselves like scoundrels, and quoted it as an example of the legislation proposed in the present Bill.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
You want to put us on a level with that class of person? I really think the Parliamentary Secretary should take that back, because in his heart he does not put us on the same level&—even the worst of us at Poplar, myself if he likes&—as people who are willing 1964 to sell their political opinions in order to make money for themselves. No one at Poplar, or in the East End of London, has been charged with such an offence as that to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred. [An HON. MEMBER: "Except Conservative and Liberal candidates!"] I did not want to say anything like that, because for my part I never feel inclined to sit in judgment on other people. What I want to rub in to the Parliamentary Secretary is that he himself will not stand at that Box and say that the people proposed to be dealt with under this Bill are in any way comparable with those who are dealt with under the Act he quoted. His quotation was entirely beside the mark. The other point, which has never been met, is that before these penalties can be imposed upon us we have a right to appeal to the Minister or to the Court, or in some cases to both. In the first place, the hon. Member has not answered the case that the man who is surcharged is not only to be punished by the disability of five years, but also has to make up the money, or become bankrupt, which is an entirely new penalty proposed to be put upon local government administrators. Up to now this side of the penalty has never been imposed, because it could not be imposed on poor people or on relatively rich people. There are very few people who have sufficient property in their house to cover a big surcharge.
This House does not realise that this little Bill is imposing an entirely new penalty on a set of people against whom no criminal offence is charged. The Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister of Labour have given no answer to the case we have put forward. The Parliamentary Secretary says that when you go to the Courts you have to prove that you acted reasonably. It is very often a difficult question in law as to what is reasonable. I am speaking within the recollection of some hon. Members who followed the discussions which took place in the Courts between myself and other borough councillors and the Judges. The Judges said over and over again that they were quite convinced of our bona fides, that we had all acted in what we considered to be a proper manner, but we lost the case all the same. We went to prison for six weeks. It did not matter whether we had acted according to the best of our judgment or not. Then 1965 the right hon. Gentleman and the Parliamentary Secretary never attempted to meet this point, that we have to find the money to take proceedings in order to escape the five years banishment. The Parliamentary Secretary says that there will always be some people, some organisation, willing to find the money for us to fight it. He is making a great mistake. We have no rich corporations behind us, we have no rich people who want to, buy honours. We have no means of raising the money, and no one knows that better than the hon. Member. It is quite an illusion that we should be able to get the money to go to Court. Neither have they met the point that if we won the case the auditor's costs have to be paid by somebody. I am not sure whether under this Bill they have not to be paid by the person who is appealing against the decision. Secondly, in any case, the costs have to be met by the ratepayers or by those who make the appeal.
The point I emphasise more strongly than ever is that the money which is to enable them to go to, the Court cannot be found by the majority of those who will be attacked. The Minister knows perfectly well that in the main they will be only poor men and women who will come under the ban of the auditor in this sort of case. The Minister says to us, "After all you have an appeal which will not cost you anything; you can appeal to the Minister." I have a great respect for the Minister of Health and for the Parliamentary Secretary in some ways, but I have not the least respect for their impartiality where I and my principles are concerned. They are both my political opponents; they think that the putting into practice of my principles and my ideas of what is right is an evil to the community, and it is their duty to pull me up if they can, because they think I am going to do evil not only to my own district but to the nation. I can quite easily envisage them standing at the Box opposite and defending the non-remission of a surcharge in the case of myself and my friends. Therefore, I have not the least faith in their impartiality or in their freedom from prejudice in judging whether I am a person who ought to be subject to these penalties.
I want again to recall to the House the fact that, although this is a very little Bill and although it looks a very 1966 harmless Bill that is merely going to put right some small matters, yet it is a Bill that is going to interfere very heavily indeed with the rights of working people acting as administrators. When the Parliamentary Secretary tells us about our right of appeal he knows that the people who have launched the campaign which has resulted in this Bill with its penalties, represent branches of the Federation of British Industries, and that they are determined by hook or by crook to cripple Labour administration on local authorities. The Parliamentary Secretary is acting merely as a kind of catspaw for this federation, in order to prevent local governing bodies being controlled by working people. If there were any chance of the Bill being operative against county councils or borough councils manned by rich people, the benches opposite would be filled by Members who would be fighting the Bill. When the auditor deals with a poor borough he surcharges the members in a big lump sum and so brings us within the scope of these penalties. If it were in order I would be able to prove that statement by giving numberless instances, but I realise that I would be out of order in doing so. In the case of authorities that are dominated by persons of the same political opinion as the Parliamentary Secretary, when the auditors deal with them in the matter of surcharge, instead of taking a bulk sum that amounts, say, to £1,000 or £5,000, they pick out several tiny items and make it what is called a token estimate, so that if the Courts decide against the authority it is quite easy to have those items wiped off the minutes and off the financial statement. Under this Bill it will be possible for the auditors who have class bias to exercise that bias in future as they have done in the past. Because that is so I hope the House will accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. LAWSON
One of the things that we have wanted to know from the Minister is why he has set the standard of five years and £500. I remember that the Parliamentary Secretary, when asked, said that he had taken the middle course. He did not explain why this was the middle course, except by referring to the seven years' penalty for corruption. Apparently that was sufficient, because he did not use any other illustra- 1967 tion to show why this was the middle course. So also we were told that £500 was the proper amount because it was the proper amount. It is necessary to recall now and then what we are doing by this Bill. If a member of a local authority is surcharged he can be penalised for five years, not only in respect of the local authority immediately concerned, but in relation to every and any local authority. My hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), who has just spoken, has said that there are those who think that this is a small matter, but I can see how it is going to be a very important matter. Take an area like that which I represent. Labour has a majority upon practically every local governing body, up to the county council in the county town. There are forces and interests that object to that very strongly. The people whose lives are at stake in the various matters that are discussed day by day are working-class people.
The logic of this Bill will be that you will have insignificant persons who, being wealthy and having social position, would band themselves together in hole-and-corner ways in order to punish men who were members of boards of guardians or rural councils and other bodies, and were at the same time members of the county council. You will have little cliques of individuals, representative of vested interests in each area, getting together in order to harass the auditor and call his attention to all kinds of matters, to compel him, by the Press and by publicity in various ways, to take an active interest in all kinds of items; and these cliques will concentrate upon the auditor in respect of boards of guardians and rural authorities in order to penalise and punish and to break up such representation as Labour has on, say, the Durham County Council. The Minister of Education has paid a tribute to the educational efficiency of that body during the past few years, and the Minister of Transport has paid tribute to its efficiency in respect of roads. But those same men, who are members of county councils, who may be aldermen, who sometimes have filled the position of chairman of the county council, if they are penalised as members of a board of guardians, will no longer 1968 be able to act on a county council or a rural council. That is a disgraceful attitude for any Government to adopt. On the question of appeals I cannot understand why the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister should insist that there is any real value in the so-called appeal to the Courts. There is an appeal to the Minister, but what is the good of that if the Minister is a Tory Minister and the appellant is a Labour representative.
§ Sir K. WOOD
It may shorten the discussion on this question if I state that, as far as the five years' disqualification is concerned, there is no appeal to the Minister. He has nothing to do with a matter of that kind.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I appreciate the correction, but it might have been mentioned to the hon. Member for Stratford (Mr. Groves).
§ Mr. LAWSON
In the light of the statement just made by the Parliamentary Secretary, I think the Minister of Health is entitled to make an apology to the hon. Member for Stratford. The appeal, I take it then, is to the Courts, but, as I say, I do not understand why the hon. Gentleman insists that there is any chance in this provision for the average man or woman who is going to be penalised. There are people serving on local authorities to-day whose only asset, whose only wealth, is the ability which they are giving to the work of local government day by day. In areas such as I represent, there are men devoting experience and mental power to the public service who possess little more than the clothes they wear. There is not the slightest chance that they will be able to go to the Courts.
In any case, we ask that six months should be substituted for five years. I agree that even six months is too much but, at any rate, the Amendment minimises the proposed penalty. I can imagine that the result of this penalty—and I think that is the intention—will be that many able men and women who are not of the same opinion as Members of the Government will be debarred from public life. The Government's line of action is clear cut. This Clause and the Bill as a whole, form part of the policy 1969 of the Government. I only hope that if ever we again occupy the Benches opposite, we shall be equally thorough and clear and forcible in pushing forward our policy. While the Committee Room upstairs in which this Bill was considered was not a haven of peace during the discussions, I imagine that matters will not be debated in the cloistered atmosphere in which we are now debating this Bill, when the time comes for us to put our policy into operation. I hope when that time comes, hon. Members opposite will be as well conducted and, if I may say so, as respectable as we have been to-day but I very much doubt it. I doubt if we shall get such an object lesson in conduct from hon. Members opposite as we have given to-night when we drive home our policy; although hon. Gentlemen opposite often claim to be able to teach us the rules of conduct in these matters.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I think we still want a little more light on this question. The penalty for making mistakes for a Government is to have an election and to get out for at least five years, and I think this five year penalty is probably an intelligent anticipation by the Minister of what is going to happen at the next Election—only in that case the penalty will be a recurring penalty.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The hon. Gentleman knows quite well that we had no majority at either of the previous Elections. If we made mistakes, and I dare say we did, we had not time to make as many as the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues. The question here is as between five years and six months and I think the Amendment raises a point which is worth consideration. An attempt is being made here to cut down the number of persons of a political complexion different from that of the Government, who will be able to take their seats on local governing bodies. This proposal is the complement of the general Conservative policy, which was admirably and frankly put at a recent conference where one of the party's representatives said that what they wanted was by hook or by crook—presumably mainly by crook—to see that the Conservative party was in power, whatever way the people voted. That statement was in reference to the House of Lords 1970 reform. I take it that this policy in the present instance has been dictated by the London Municipal Society—one of the most deplorable bodies with which a great city was ever cursed. These persons and the Ministers know that in the industrial areas they have no chance of getting Members returned by fair election and so they consider the question "How can we get rid of these people?" They say, "We will take them in batches and clear out a lot every year for five years and perhaps by the end of that time, we will have cleared out the lot." But that is not going to happen.
What is going to happen is that the Labour representatives are going to be so harassed that many will find it an unjustifiable risk to remain on public bodies. It will be an unjustifiable risk for a man who has to look after a family and maintain children at school to go in for a gamble of this sort. What is the Minister inviting him to do? If he stands on behalf of the Labour party, he might just as well gamble a year's wages with a "three-card trick merchant" in the certainty of losing or try to guess under which thimble the pea is located. The district auditor is the only man who knows. We only know we are going to lose. The result is that these public bodies will lose the men who are the best local representatives at the present time —the steady, experienced, thoughtful man. Hon. Members opposite hope that then they will get Conservatives into these bodies, but they will not. The people have had enough of Conservatives. The only result will be that the character of the personnel of the councils will change for the worse. There are plenty of men of straw whom these penalties will not affect. They are the people who will man these councils, and the position will grow worse and worse.
This five years' period is an endeavour to cut off the supply of capable councillors. It will not operate much in places like Poplar, West Ham, Stepney, and Shoreditch, because there are so many Labour people there that they will always find enough candidates to run, but it will operate in the smaller areas of the country, where employers and the Conservative party can bring pressure to bear on people so that they shall not stand as public representatives, and where there are only a few people who can give the time or have sufficient inde- 1971 pendence to be able to stand and voice the Labour view. They think that by putting this Bill into operation they will be able to eliminate those, and so stifle the voice of Labour on a number of the smaller local authorities. That is a pretty mean design; it is an extraordinary effort, which reminds me of a wealthy football team playing another team which is very poor but which plays well. The wealthy team find they cannot win, so they try to eliminate the players in the other team. If they could, they would buy them, but they cannot be bought, so they ruin them.
It is all part of a general campaign, that is very clumsily conducted. We had a very clumsy exhibition during the past week on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour, but all these Ministers play their part in one class war and endeavour to knock us out of Parliament in one way or another. They might get rid of a dozen Members of this House, they think, by first bankrupting them, and then there is the other method, of attacking the political organisation of Labour. They also attack the industrial side of Labour, and if, in spite of all this, we happen to get a majority on a board of guardians, they have the idea that the majority can be shoved out, and the Minister of Health can put in one of his Russian Commissars to run the show. I wonder that a really bureaucratic Minister like the right hon. Gentleman opposite did not go the whole hog and extend the other Act. Why did he not put in his representatives to run any council he does not like? Why do it in this retail manner, picking off a member here and a member there, and ruining him? Why not sweep away the whole lot? Why not pass a simple Bill and say that no Labour people shall ever get on any governing body? It would be quite in consonance with the traditions of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who, with his friends, is frequently attacking Labour on the ground that we have made councils political.
It comes extraordinarily well from the heirs of the people who are responsible for the Birmingham caucus rule—Birmingham, the most party-run town that ever was. I had the pleasure of visiting Birmingham the other day, and I was very much surprised at what I found was 1972 still going on in the heart of West Birmingham, after 50 years of representation by members of the right hon. Gentleman's family. If the right hon. Gentleman would only put in force the law against some of the Birmingham councilors—
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I was led away perhaps. I must apologise for a combative spirit and a slight military training which leads me naturally to attack the opposite Bench. To return to the five years point, which I have not mentioned just lately, if there is any sportsmanship left in the Minister he would think it enough to restrain these councillors for six months instead of for five years. Where he will hurt people by his Bill will be in the smaller districts, where political liberty is still very much hampered, where it is quite possible that most useful Labour members will be knocked off by these rather devious methods, and where the right hon. Gentleman will entirely suppress that excellent criticism that has done so much to make Conservative councils advance a little way on the road to good government.
§ Mr. POTTS
I hope the Minister will reconsider his decision on this Amendment. When I see the small number of Members of the opposite side who are in the House, it shows to me clearly that they are disinterested in this matter. They think they have no responsibility, but the other side as well as our side, I hope to show, will have some responsibility under this Clause. The object of this provision, as I take it, is, in the Minister's mind, to prevent extraordinary expenditure by public authorities and to provide that money shall be expended in accordance with what he, as Minister, thinks ought to be expended in different places. Take the case of the guardians. The Minister proposes, apparently, to terrorise the guardians from making any extraordinary expenditure, with the object of driving them out. Supposing he succeeds in doing that, he cannot get rid of Labour representation, however he looks at it, because if he drives one man out, we have always another ready to take the position.
Take the intention of the Minister to disfranchise men for five years in the administration of public work. We might 1973 agree with this period if it were intended for men who were criminals and were taking money not belonging to them or conniving at contracts to get money for themselves, but the object here is to deprive people of the opportunity of administering the law of the land. If the object is to diminish expenditure, it will simply result in making more criminals in this country than there are to-day, for if you take money from the relief of poor people so that those people cannot exist on what you give them, they will resort to doing anything in the way of theft and so on, and the result—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
Every hon. Member might wish to state what he thought might be the effect of this Clause, and if that were done, we should never get to the end of the discussion.
§ Mr. POTTS
Very possibly so. I happen to be one of those who have been surcharged. Under the existing law, the person who signs the cheque is liable. I happen to be the chairman of a committee, and we increased wages to what we thought was a reasonable figure. What happened? The auditor surcharged us, and because I was chairman I was surcharged for £100, but I had not signed the cheque, and it was ultimately found that the person who signed the cheque was the one who was liable, and not me as chairman of the committee. The Ministers object will never be effected. I want the Minister to look into this, because it will be found to affect his side materially. Take assessment committees. Nearly all the assessment committees in the country a short time ago were appointing valuers for the assessment of property without considering the guardians at all.
§ Mr. POTTS
I am giving a reason why the period ought not to be five years. The assessment committee appoint valuers, and that is illegal unless they have the confirmation of the guardians before they do it. Supposing an assess- 1974 ment committee appoints a valuer and spends £2,000, and that is found to be spent illegally, who will be responsible? It simply means that so far as assessment work is concerned the guardians will have to do everything and give orders before the committee can do anything in any shape or form. Six months, in my opinion, is far too much. There ought not to be any penalty at all, for the Minister ought to be well pleased that men, without receiving a single penny, are willing to devote themselves to public work. The way he is going means that men will not volunteer to do public work for nothing, and that he will have to pay for the work to be done. The Minister knows that, if all the work that is done has to be paid for, they could not go on. Therefore, I think the Minister ought to reconsider his position, and consider taking this penalty out. It is a monstrous demand. There are not a dozen individuals, on the Labour side at all events, who could pay £500 if such a penalty were inflicted upon them. If that be so, what does this mean? It means going to law. Who is going to pay the expenses? It will fall upon the ratepayers. Then, when you have secured a conviction, you cannot get the money. You can levy distress, but what earthly use is that?
I hope, from a common-sense point of view, that the Minister will agree to take out this five years, and incorporate the six months, but I think that even the six months ought not to be there. If a man is not doing his duty, you ought to disqualify his service, and prevent him continuing in his position. I hope that these severe penalties, which can only be intended to get Labour men out of their positions, will be withdrawn. If it be not withdrawn, it will only convince the country that the Tory party mean to monopolise all positions of authority in this country; and the further the Minister carries it out, the worse it will be so far as his side are concerned. Do not imagine for a moment that we shall forget these things at the next General Election. We are not allowed to go into the case of Birmingham, but I know something of Birmingham and on another occasion I may get a chance of saying something about it. I do know this, that in Birmingham the right hon. Gentleman himself is being resisted in many ways, and things are not going smoothly there. Money 1975 beyond the average is being spent in Birmingham and the Minister has nothing to say. Not only that, but the law is being evaded in Birmingham and the Minister does not interfere. I still hope that the Minister will use common sense and withdraw this five years. His own side of the House make mistakes, and they have made mistakes in the past. What about the Irish question? Was not a mistake made then?
§ Mr. STEPHEN
Surely it is in order to take as an illustration the First Lord of the Admiralty and the action that he took, and to point out that if this Measure had applied to him he would have been out of this House for five years.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I must really ask the hon. Member to obey my ruling; otherwise I shall have to order him to resume his seat.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I want to submit that a Member is entitled to draw the attention of the House to the fact that a crime involving £200,000 may be committed in Birmingham, and that nothing to prevent such a crime is put into this Bill, where another one, involving only £500, results in serious penalties to the person who permits it.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
That does not seem to me to arise at all. The question is the difference between six months and five years.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
Are we not in debate entitled to point to the partisan character of this Measure to show, on this Amendment, that it is not directed towards laying down general law for the country, but that it is merely a case of the Minister of Health and the Conservative party using their temporary power to put on the Statute Book of 1976 this country laws that in practice will apply to their political opponents only? Are we not entitled to point that out?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
There is far too great a tendency at the present moment to discuss the whole Bill on every single Amendment. It has been already debated by agreement on the first two Amendments. On the subsequent Amendments, hon. Members must confine themselves to the point at issue—in this case as to whether it is to be "five years" or "six months."
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I submit that the question that we are discussing is as to how long a person who has made a mistake should be debarred from taking a part in public affairs. Is it not germane to refer to instances of Ministers who have made mistakes and been thrown out and have subsequently come back into power?
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
This is a Bill directed against poor people, and surely it is in order on this Amendment to say that by this Bill the sentence on a poor person is five years, but that, if he belongs to His Majesty's Government and does a similar thing, there is no period of suspension at all.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
That would not be in, order on this particular Amendment, which deals only with the question of "five years" or "six months."
§ Mr. BUCHANAN.
Surely a Member can bring out this point to prove the merits of the case. We can only prove merits or demerits by illustrations of similar things in other walks of life. I submit that a casual reference to the fact that a Minister of the Crown has not been punished for mistakes like these is perfectly in order, provided that it is not too long developed.
§ Sir BASIL PETO
Is it in order for hon. Members to question the ruling of the Chair four or five times in succession on the pretext that they are raising points of order?
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The hon. Member suggests that I questioned the ruling of the Chair; I did nothing of the sort, but in a perfectly Parliamentary way I 1977 submitted an argument and asked the Chair what was the exact extent of the ruling.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
These points of Order have gone far enough, and all this has nothing to do with the Bill or with the particular Amendment. I hope hon. Members will return to the Amendment which we are discussing.
§ Mr. POTTS
I should like to ask the Minister if he can give any information to the House as to whether assessment committees who appoint valuers are spending money illegally, and, if so, whether, if this Bill becomes law, it will apply to those particular people, who are largely represented on the other side of the House? Will he take the necessary proceedings against them? Again, supposing that a certain authority accepted a contract and that contract is afterwards found to be excessive and unreasonable, will the Minister take action against the contractors? I hope that the Minister, so far as Labour representation is concerned, will make the necessary alteration in this particular Clause.
§ Mr. THURTLE
I would not have intervened in this discussion had it not been that the argument was so thoroughly one-sided. I have sat here listening to speech after speech of a most cogent character all relevant to the point under discussion, and there has not been a single reply from the other side. I should like to know what the great Conservative party is thinking on this very important point in connection with local government. We know what the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister are thinking, but we have had no sign whatever of what the great serried ranks behind them are thinking on this point. I cannot believe that the Conservative party or its members are so entirely indifferent to local government that they have no views on this matter. The Minister of Health in a devious manner is trying to emulate the tactics of the Fascisti in Italy. I regard this Clause as one great attempt to destroy local government. When the Fascist in Italy sought to destroy local government they adopted different means. Instead of enacting in their Parliament any Measure of this kind they resorted to force and 1978 to castor oil, and in that way they destroyed local government in the municipalities and communes of Italy. The Minister of Health is pursuing a different method. It seems to me that, if he pursues it thoroughly enough, he will in the end destroy local self-government in this country as effectively as the Fascisti have done it in Italy.
I am very much concerned about our being able to get a satisfactory supply of candidates for our local authorities. It is a particularly acute question in the great East End constituencies. We have this tendency operating there. Conditions of overcrowding are very pronounced, and there is a tendency for the better type of citizen to seek to get out with his family into more congenial surroundings. That has the effect of diminishing the number of people whom we can call upon to act as candidates for our local authorities. The duties on those local bodies often involve heavy calls upon the time of the councillors and guardians. The men and women to whom we look are mostly working men and working women, and they find it very difficult to give the necessary time on relief committees and sub-committees in order to discharge their duties properly. Hitherto, in spite of those difficulties, They have decided that the cause of doing service to the public was of such importance that they were willing to share in those difficulties and hardships and sacrifice time which they could not very well spare.
If in addition to that there is the threat to disqualify them for five years, many of them are going to throw up their hands in despair and say, "We are not going to offer ourselves any more as candidates for public bodies." That will increase the considerable difficulties we have in the East End in finding the necessary number of suitable persons to carry on the work of local government. In a place like Shoreditch, for example, we require no fewer than 42 borough councillors and 24 guardians, so that 66 members of the working-class men and women are called upon to sacrifice a good deal of their leisure time in order to serve the community. It is difficult to get that number of men and women who are really fit and capable for public work. In the East End of London we take the duties of local administration 1979 very seriously. We would not put up a man as candidate for the borough council because he has a title, for instance, if he were not fitted in every other respect to serve the public. Before putting forward a panel of candidates we have to consider very carefully whether they are men and women who are fitted in every respect to discharge their duties to the public, and it is not playing the game by local government to impose this very heavy penalty upon them for a crime which they may easily commit unwittingly.
I would like the Minister to tell us on what grounds he has fixed the period at five years? A borough council is elected for three years, and so, too, is a board of guardians. If it so happens that a borough council commits an offence under this Act after the first year of office has elapsed, it will mean that the whole of
|Division No. 465.]||AYES.||[9.40 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.|
|Albery, Irving James||Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Alexander. Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Dawson, Sir Philip||Huntingfield, Lord|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Drewe, C.||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Atkinson, C.||Ellis, R. G.||Hurst, Gerald B.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||England, Colonel A.||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.|
|Balniel, Lord||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Bellaire, Commander Canyon W.||Fenby, T. D.||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Fleiden, E. B.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||King, Commodore Henry Douglas|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Fraser, Captain Ian||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B.||Gates, Percy||Lamb, J. Q.|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Loder, J. de V.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Goff, Sir Park||Long, Major Eric|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Looker, Herbert William|
|Buchan, John||Grant, Sir J. A.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere|
|Burman, J. B.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Grotrian, H. Brent||MacDonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Campbell, E. T.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hacking, Douglas H.||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-|
|Cassels, J. D.||Hail, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Makings, Brigadier-General E.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R.(Prtsmth. S.)||Hanbury, C.||Margesson, Captain D.|
|Cazalet. Captain Victor A.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Harland, A.||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Harrison, G. J. C.||Merriman, F. B|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Hartington, Marquess of||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)|
|Christie, J. A.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)|
|Churchman. Sir Arthur C.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Henderson, Lt.-Col. Sir V. L. (Bootle)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.|
|Clayton, G. C.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Morden, Colonel Waiter Grant|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Moreing, Captain A. H.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hills, Major John Wailer||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hilton, Cecil||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Cope, Major William||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Homan, C. W. J.||Oakley, T.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Perring, Sir William George|
§ the members of the council will not only be excluded from offering themselves as candidates at the next borough council election but at the one succeeding that as well, so that they will be excluded from office for practically three periods. That is an unnecessarily heavy penalty, and in view of the weight of argument which has come from this side of the House and the complete absence of support for the Clause from his own side of the House, I think the Minister ought once more to reconsider the matter and see if he cannot agree to accept this proposal to substitute six months.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 210: Noes, 118.
|Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Peto, G. (Somerset, From)||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W. R., Sowerby)||Waddington, R.|
|Philipson, Mabel||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Pilcher, G.||Shepperson, E. W.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Preston, William||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W|
|Price, Major C. W. M.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Div., Belfast)||Watson Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Raine, Sir Walter||Skelton, A. N.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Rawson, Sir Cooper||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kincardine, C.)||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Rice, Sir Frederick||Smithers, Waldron||Wells, S. R.|
|Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple|
|Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Robinson, Sir T (Lancs, Stretford)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Storry-Deans, R.||Withers, John James|
|Rye. F. G.||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Salmon, Major I.||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich W.)|
|Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Sudden, Sir Wilfrid||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Samuel, Samuel (W'deworth, Putney)||Tasker, R. Indigo.||Wragg, Herbert|
|Sandeman, N. Stewart||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Sanderson, Sir Frank||Tinne, J. A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Savery, S. S.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Captain Viscount Curzon and Mr. Penny.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Hayday, Arthur||Sexton, James|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hayes, John Henry||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Alexander, A. V (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Henderson. T. (Glasgow)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hirst, G. H.||Snitch, Charles H.|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Baker, Walter||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe,|
|Batey, Joseph||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Smith, H. B. Lees-(Keighley)|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Snell, Harry|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Lannbury, George||Stamford, T. W.|
|Bromley, J.||Lawrence, Susan||Stephen, Campbell|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Lawson, John James||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Buchanan, G||Lee, F.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Cape, Thomas||Lindley, F. W.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro W.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lowth, T.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lunn, William||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Compton, Joseph||Mackinder, W.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Connolly, M.||Mac Neill-Weir, L.||Townend, A. E.|
|Cove, W. G.||March, S.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Diversities)||Montague, Frederick||Viant, S. P.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Morris, R. H.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Murnin, H.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Dennison, R.||Naylor, T. E.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Duncan, C.||Oliver, George Harold||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Gardner, J. P.||Owen, Major G.||Westwood, J.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Paling, W.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Gillett, George M.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Whiteley, W.|
|Gosling, Harry||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Greenall, T.||Potts, John S.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Greenwood. A. (Nelson and Chine)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Riley, Ben||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Groves, T.||Ritson, J.||Windsor, Walter|
|Grundy, T. W.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)||Wright, W.|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Rose, Frank H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hardie, George D.||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. A.|
|Harris, Percy A.||Scrymgeour, E.||Barnes.|
|Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Scurr, John|
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words 'five years' stand part of the Bill."
|Division No. 466.]||AYES.||[9.47 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Bourne. Captain Robert Croft|
|Albert, Irving James||Balniel, Lord||Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Bearish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B.|
|Allen, Sandman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Betterton, Henry B.||Brassey, Sir Leonard|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Brittain, Sir Harry|
|Atkinson, C.||Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Brocklebank, C. E. R.|
§ The House divided: Ayes, 224; Noes, 114.
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Henderson, Lt.-Col. Sir V. L. (Bootle)||Price, Major C. W. M|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Raine, Sir Walter|
|Buchan, John||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Burman, J. B.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Remnant, Sir James|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Hills. Major John Walter||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Hilton, Cecil||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Campbell, E. T.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Cassels, J. D.||Homan, C. W. J.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes, Stretford)|
|Cayzer, Mal. Sir Herbt. R.(Prtsmth. S.)||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Rye, F. G.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Salmon, Major I.|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Christie, J. A.||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Huntingfeld, Lord||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hurd, Percy A.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Clayton. G. C.||Hurst, Gerald B.||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Savery, S. S.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Jephcott, A. R.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Cope, Major William||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Sinclair, Col. T.(Queen's Div., Ballet|
|Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Skelton, A. N.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Knox, Sir Alfred||Slithers, Waldron|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Lamb, J. Q.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmoreland)|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Loader, J. de V.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Damson, Sir Philip||Long, Major Eric||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Crewe, C.||Looker, Herbert William||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Ellis, R. G.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|England, Colonel A.||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Herman||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Tanker, R. Inigo.|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Fenby, T. D.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell|
|Fielden, E. B.||Macquisten, F. A.||Tinned, J. A.|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Margesson, Captain D.||Waddington, R.|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Gates, Percy||Merriman, F. B.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Goff, Sir Park||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Morden, Col. W. Grant||Wells, S. R.|
|Grant, Sir J. A.||Moreing, Captain A. H.||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Morris, R. H.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||Nall, Colonel Sir Joseph||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Nelson, Sir Frank||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Hacking, Douglas H.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Withers, John James|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Nuttall, Ellis||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Oakley, T.||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Hanbury, C.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Owen, Major G.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Harland, A.||Perring, Sir William George||Wragg, Herbert|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Philipson, Mabel||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Pilcher, G.||Captain Viscount Curzon and Mr|
|Headier, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Preston, William||Penny.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Buchanan, G.||Gardner, J. P.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Cape, Thomas||Gibbins, Joseph|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Charleton, H. C.||Gillett, George M.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Closer, W. S.||Gosling, Harry|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bliston)||Clynes, Right Hon. John R.||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)|
|Baker, Walter||Compton, Joseph||Greenall, T.|
|Batey, Joseph||Connolly, M.||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Cove, W. G.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Dalton, Hugh||Groves, T.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Day, Colonel Harry||Grundy, T. W.|
|Bromley, J.||Dennison, R.||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Duncan, C.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Hardie, George D.||Oliver, George Harold||Sutton, J. E.|
|Harris, Percy A.||Paling, W.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)|
|Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Hayday, Arthur||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Hayes, John Henry||Ponsonby, Arthur||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Potts, John S.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Hirst, G. H.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Townend, A. E.|
|Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Riley, Ben||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Ritson, J.||Viant, S. P.|
|Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)||Wellhead, Richard C.|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen.|
|Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Rose, Frank H.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Lansbury, George||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Lawrence, Susan||Scrymgeour, E.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Lawson, John James||Scurr, John||Westwood, J.|
|Lee, F.||Sexton, James||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Lindley, F. W.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Whiteley, W.|
|Loath, T.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Lunn, William||Sitch, Charles H.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Mackinder, W.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Mac Neill-Weir L.||Smith, H. B. Lees. (Keighley)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|March, S.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)||Windsor, Walter|
|Montague, Frederick||Snell, Harry||Wright, W.|
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Stamford, T. W.|
|Murnin, H.||Stephen, Campbell||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Naylor, T. E.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. A. Barnes.|
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The next Amendment which I select is that standing in the name of the hon. Member for East Ham North (Miss Lawrence), in page 1, line 23, at the end, to insert the words:nor to any person who has been surcharged unless he was a member of the committee responsible for recommending to the local authority the expenditure in respect of which the surcharge has been made.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
On a point of Order. Do I understand that you are omitting the Amendment which stands in my name in line 17, after the word "authority," to insert the words "in respect of whose account the surcharge has been made"? This Amendment raises a very substantial point of principle, and my own Division will be very hardly hit by the harsh judgment that is laid down in the Clause.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I have to use the best judgment of which I am capable in all the circumstances of the case, and I call the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Ham North.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
I beg to move, in page 1, line 23, at the end, to insert the words:nor to any person who has been surcharged unless he was a member of the committee responsible for recommending to the local authority the expenditure in respect of which the surcharge has been made.With this Amendment we enter on an entirely new branch of research. We have discussed the penalty, we have discussed what the crime may be, and now we are 1986 discussing who commits it. I said earlier in the evening that the one thing in the Bill about which there was no doubt was the penalties. Here they are in black and white—good, solid, substantial penalties such as any Member might rejoice to inflict on his political opponents. The extreme difficulty has already been pointed out of knowing exactly what the crime is, so that any councillor may be careful to keep himself clear; but, even if you know the crime, you are by no means certain what constitutes the committing of a criminal act. The Section under which we are working is Section 247 (7) of the Local Goverment Act, 1888, which reads as follows:Any auditor acting in pursuance of this Section shall disallow every item of account contrary to law, and surcharge the same on the person making or authorising the making of the illegal payment,and shall charge against that person the amount lost by his deficiency or negligence, and so forth. The important words are those which state that it is the auditor's duty to surcharge such items on the person making or authorising the making of the illegal payment. But who is the person making or authorising the illegal payment? There is no answer to that. The practice of auditors differs widely from time to time, from place to place, and from auditor to auditor. It used to be believed that the persons making or authorising the illegal payment were the signatories of the cheque, and the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Potts) has told us that that is even yet 1987 the practice of the auditors in his district. That practice used to be followed almost uniformly, and, if you read the text-books of the year 1900 or thereabouts, you will find that it is set down by the London School Board in black and white that the usual practice of auditors was to surcharge the persons responsible for signing the cheque. If you look in the law-books you will find that that was due to the decision in a certain case in Ireland, namely, the Queen v. Calvert, in the Queen's Bench Division, 1898. In that case the Judge said:In my opinion the only persons who may be legally surcharged are those making the illegal payment or directly authorising the payment out of the funds over which they have control.That seems to be all plain sailing, and the auditors of that day did, and, as we have heard, certain auditors even at the present day do, uniformly follow the practice of surcharging the person who signs the cheque. The practice of the auditors, however, varies in this way, that they sometimes make a token surcharge, which could not reach £500, and sometimes they make a surcharge of the whole amount.
I want to give the House an illustration of how widely the practice of auditors varies, and how desirable it is to put some certainty into the law. We have increased the penalties, and the more we increase the penalties the more important it is to define the crime. Once upon a time there was an auditor who made a surcharge which upset the whole foundations of local government, a surcharge which occupied the time of Parliament for a Session, and which I think was a contributory cause of the downfall of one of the largest Conservative majorities even seen. The name of that auditor was Cockerton. Mr. Cockerton surcharged the London School Board, and he also surcharged, by implication, nearly all the other school boards of England and Wales—all the forward ones; and the interpretation of the Judges was that the London School Board and other school boards had entirely mistaken the meaning of the word "elementary" in the Act of 1870. They had spent vast sums of public money, with the approval of successive Boards of Education, in grants for this illegal purpose of education, 1988 which, in the opinion of the Judges of the lower Court and the Court of Appeal, was education other than elementary. The result was that, not merely was the Education Bill of 1902 brought on in a great hurry, but other indemnifying Measures, and a special Act for London, were passed, and the time of Parliament was occupied, with results which we all remember.
I am saying all this to show what an extremely important case that was, and what large sums of money and what great questions of local government are concerned. But who and what did that auditor surcharge? The total sums involved would have been enormous, but he only took three tiny items. He took for that surcharge, involving in London hundreds of thousands of pounds, and a great deal more over the whole country, one sum of £36 6s. 10d., another of £4, and a third of £58. That was not £500 altogether, but it was a surcharge which raised the important political issues to which I have alluded. Moreover, he did not surcharge the Committee, he did not surcharge the school board, but he surcharged the six people who signed the three cheques, and, in this important matter of an enormous amount if illegal expenditure, he did not get up to £500 or anywhere near it. But our new auditors have quite different views. Take the Poplar case. In the case of the first Poplar surcharge, the auditor took, not token sums, but the whole expenditure —the £5,000, the £22,500 next year, and the £23,000 odd—I am quoting the last figure from memory. Those sums represented the whole of the expenditure by which the Poplar Borough Council had exceeded the amount of wages that the auditor thought fit. There is one point of difference between the token surcharge and the surcharge of the whole amount.
If this were not so serious, I should say it was comic to take the whole council. He took every man for the £5,000 surcharge—every man and woman on that borough council—and so widely did he throw his net that he worked in the six Conservative members of the opposition, the six members of the municipal alliance. I have seen these gentlemen. They used to sit through in a state of unhappiness, bewilderment, and absolute helplessness. In council meeting after council meeting they have sat and shaken their heads saying a few words at the 1989 close. They were unwilling spectators, but when it came to the surcharge the auditor pulled them all in, sheep and goats. I remember the Judge looking down upon them from his great height, touched with compassion, and saying: "You find yourselves, gentlemen, in an unlucky position." We were all perfectly happy. We made speeches. It was a great occasion. We were proud and pleased to stand and explain before the Court the views which led us to take the course that we did. But the unfortunate six had nothing to say. The next time, I suppose, somebody in high position said to the auditor, "This is somewhat silly," for he carefully left out the whole Conservative minority. I am not quite sure what that was, but he did. You see, Mr. Speaker, it is one thing knowingly to commit a crime and a very different thing if you cannot by any reasonable care guard yourself from the commission of a crime.
I will give an instance of the minority in the council. They most certainly gave us no moral support, but I ask anyone to look at the position of members of a very large and complicated council. It is very difficult for any man to be quite sure in a big council whether or not the cheques which he signs are for legal expenditure. It is excessively difficult if you consider the sub-division of business in local authorities such as a rural county council. Take the case of an education committee. The council keeps in its hands only the general approval of the estimates. An educational authority in the country is as nearly as possible independent of its council, except for that one field-dress day in the year on which the estimates are settled. It is no use saying to me that an education committee in the country is sufficiently controlled because the council have fixed the estimates. Within these estimates the committee have a considerable amount of room. You have in the annual estimates so much money allocated to the cleaning of schools. An education committee will have discretion as to the material and the amount of money that is paid to humbler servants such as school cleaners; and school cleaners are precisely the people in regard to whom the education committee might get into trouble. The point in the mind of the Judges was not so much the 1990 wages for the men as the excessive wages supposed to he paid to the women. The auditor can surcharge the members of the council for crimes the members of the education committee create.
What is done in the housing committee? So technical a branch as that is necessarily very little controlled by the parent body. There is the purchase of materials, for instance. It might very well be that the housing committee might use too expensive material. There have been instances where the Minister of Health has conferred with councils about that matter. The members of the council on this technical point necessarily accept the judgment of their committee. That is what you have a committee for, so that the council can lay down broad questions of principle and the business details can be dealt with by the committee. I would point out that the members of the education committee would not, and could not, examine the electricity accounts, for instance, so as to be quite sure of the correct wages and the correct amount of money, and yet in the absence of any instruction any member of the council may be surcharged for technical matters within the range of another committee, and there is no safety for members unless they themselves know not merely their own province in the council work but every other province with sufficient intimacy to be quite sure that there is no danger of any committees of the council, electricity, housing, baths and education overstepping the mark. That is quite an intolerable state of things. I know the Amendment is in effect an Amendment to the existing law. The existing law allows the auditor this very strange amount of latitude, but the matter becomes ten times worse when he affixes new penalties to the old ones, when you have not merely a crime which is shadowy but when you have no opportunity of knowing what makes a man a criminal, how far you are an accessory, and how far you are a principal. That always has been a very bad blot in the law. It has led on some occasions to the interests of justice being defeated.
I gave in Committee an interesting case of how the auditor, by exercising a wrong discretion as to whom to surcharge, allowed a set of people for whom no word of defence could be spoken altogether to escape. I should rather like to remind 1991 the House of the picturesque and varied circumstances of the Killarney case. This is the case of a town council that behaved in a way no one could excuse, but the bad state of the law not giving the auditor sufficient clearness of direction, the whole gang got off. The story is this. The town council of Killarney had two irreconcileable factions. One wished the gas supply to continue, and the other wished the town to be lit by electric light. The electric light people got a majority of one or two, and they signed and sealed and duly delivered a contract to the electric light company. The partisans of the gas company were bonny fighters. They awaited their time, got a scratch majority together, and passed a resolution that the town should be lit by gas, and, under very irregular circumstances, they signed and sealed a contract for the supply of gas. All went on perfectly happily. The two contracts were running, one for gas and one for electric light. When I first read the report, I thought that the electricity had not been delivered, but I made further researches. I believe that for a few months Killarney blazed like the brightest jewel on Erin's bosom. The electricity people whipped up another council, got their little precarious majority, denounced all that the parisans of the gas committee had done, rescinded their resolution, and refused to recognise the contract. The gas company sent in its bill and the partisans of electricity, being in a majority, refused to pay it. Then the gas company county-courted the town council, and the county court Judge, giving judgment against the council, said that the gas had been duly supplied and the little irregularity in the contract was not sufficient to vitiate it. Then they had to pay up. Under the judgment of the Court, a cheque was signed to pay for the gas that had been supplied as well as the electricity. The auditor came down and was not altogether pleased with the disgraceful quarrel that had led to the unfortunate ratepayers paying twice over for gas and electricity, and, relying on the precedent of a wrong interpretation of a Section of the Act I have read, he surcharged the signatories of the cheque. The Judge, in giving judgment, said that he thought the only persons in the whole business who had acted decently and reasonably were 1992 the councillors who signed the cheque giving effect to the judgment of the Judge.
Is it fair that sometimes they should take everyone, sometimes they should impose the full amount of the overcharge amounting to many thousands of pounds, and that sometimes at their own will they should take token cheques and surcharge only the people who incidentally signed them. I have a great respect for civil servants, but all civil servants are not always actuated by the best motives. Is it right to put a man into a position where he can blackmail Members if he likes? You do not always have good civil servants. You may get a black sheep. Under such circumstances, he would have the power of going to the council and saying, "I can make it a, token surcharge under £500 which will not hurt one of you, or I will make it such as to bankrupt you and drive you from public life." I hope that no civil servant would ever be so wicked as to use such a power for blackmail; but is it fair and reasonable to give any official, not subject in this part of his duty to the Minister's control, such a great power as that? He could do it well within the law. He could do it in such a way as to ruin people to bankrupt them, or he could let them off with something which will carry no disqualification. We would not even put a Judge in such a position.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That point is not raised by the Amendment. The Amendment only proposes that a person shall be liable if he is a member of the committee.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
My point was that you should say to the auditor, when things are wrong, "You must surcharge the committee." I want to limit the excessive powers to which I have referred. It is too wide a discretion to put in the hands of a civil servant for whom Parliament is not responsible. He is a civil servant of a peculiar kind, and to put this power in his hands might lead to favouritism. Therefore we have put down our Amendment. If the Minister has any better definition to offer we shall be satisfied. So long as the auditor is tied down to a limit, we shall be perfectly satisfied.
§ Mr. SCURR
I beg to second the Amendment.
1993 I trust that the Minister will give at least one concession on this Bill on the Report stage. It is not necessary for me to argue at length the reasonableness of this Amendment. The Minister tells us that he is bringing forward this legislation in order to deal with an evil which has arisen. If he desires to deal with an evil which has arisen he should bring the responsibility upon those persons who are guilty of the practice which he is trying to stop. At the present time, owing to the discretion which remains in the hands of the auditor, it is uncertain upon whom the surcharge will fall or as to the amount of the surcharge. In this Amendment the responsibility would come on those persons who are members of the committee which has settled in detail the policy which is being put forward. In every case the committee would have had the advantage of consulting the officials of the council and of having had pointed out to them what in the opinion of those officials is the law on the point. Therefore, when they have made their decision they will have made it with full knowledge of the facts, and there will then probably be a case, which the Minister wishes to stop, of people deliberately defying the law. The right hon. Gentleman knows that on most local authorities the work is actually done in the committees of the authorities. After all, the meeting of the council itself is practically only a recording machine for the business which is done in committee, unless there happens to be some great question of principle between the parties on the council. The right hon. Gentleman will know that in every council hundreds of recommendations go through every year without opposition, because the point has been fought out and considered beforehand in the committee. I suggest that the members on the committees, who are responsible for the expenditure which the auditor may deem it necessary to surcharge, are the people on whom the surcharge should fall.
The hon. Member who moved this Amendment rightly quoted the Section of the Statute which defines the duties of the auditor in this respect, namely, that he has to make a surcharge on the person making or authorising the making of the-illegal payment. The hon. Member recognises that the present Bill will not make any 1994 difference in the existing law, but she founded her case on the fact that two penalties were being inflicted and that therefore it was necessary to lay down in the Statute some method by which the actual responsibility should be fastened upon the person who really ought to have the responsibility. I should agree, if a case had been made out that under present circumstances the system was working badly, that it would be necessary to look around for new methods to deal with these cases. But that is not so. It must be generally recognised that the present audit system is working extremely well throughout the country, and it is not the case that there have been constant complaints that the wrong people have been surcharged or that the responsibility has been placed other than on those who were really responsible for the acts so surcharged. It is significant that the case the hon. Member cited—a case with which I am not personally familiar—was from Ireland. I do not know that it has ever been thought necessary that what happens in Ireland must necessarily happen in this country, and when I come to the actual Amendment proposed by the hon. Member it seems to me that the remedy she proposes is a great deal worse than the disease she professes to cure. If you are to surcharge the members on the committee who recommend the authority to undertake the expenditure, you will not be sure that you are getting at the right people. I should certainly traverse the statement of the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Scurr) that the work of local councils in reviewing the work of their committees is purely mechanical and there is practically no discussion on the matters brought before them—
Of course, there are many subjects which are non-controversial which go through without any discussion, although they may have been the subject of prolonged discussion in the committee. But if you come to matters which are at all controversial my experience is that members of a council accept their responsibilities—
I am speaking of the members of a council as a whole. 1995 Neither the majority nor the minority of a council can evade the responsibility for the work of the council. The committee is not always the initiating body in expenditure. It is a common practice for committees to appoint sub-committees, and those sub-committees are in the same sort of relation to the committee as the committees are to the council. If therefore, you are to say that the committee which recommends expenditure is the only body upon whom a surcharge ought to fall, you must carry it further than that. The hon. Member recognises that that is so. Take the case of an Education Committee or a Housing Committee. They may have members who vote on the subcommittee for expenditure which comes before the committee; that is, all the members of the committee present at the particular meeting at which the matter is discussed. Are all the members of that committee, even those not there, to be subject to the surcharge, if a, surcharge is to be made?
It is really impossible to tie down the auditor without knowledge of the particular circumstances in each case. The practice of the law, which is that the auditor is to use his own discretion and to try in the light of all the circumstances of the case to fasten the responsibility where it really belongs, is the only practicable way of working in this matter. I can imagine a still further case, where a committee may have recommended expenditure which, say, is doubtful and may not turn out to be legal. Some member of that committee, perhaps persuaded by the eloquence of those who are supporting the proposal, votes for it in committee. Before it comes up to the main council further information comes before him which leads him definitely to the opinion that the expenditure is illegal. Therefore, when the vote comes before the council, he votes against the proposal in favour of which he voted in committee. According to this Amendment that person would be surcharged. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] All the members of the committee that recomment the expenditure are to be surcharged.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
The Amendment does not say so. It says that a man is not to be surcharged unless he is a member 1996 of the committee responsible for recommending the expenditure.
§ Mr. A. GREENWOOD
That does not mean necessarily that all members of the committee are to be surcharged.
I will concede the point that as the Amendment is worded it is so possible to exclude some particular individual. Nevertheless, I still return to the point that members of the council itself, who in the last resort have to sanction the proposals of their committee, must accept the responsibility for their decision, and I feel that the discretion of the auditor must be left unfettered, so that he may examine the circumstances in every individual case, take them all into consideration, and give his decision in the light of them. If, after all, he makes a mistake, there are methods open to those who have been wronged by his decision to put it right by appeal to the Courts and to seek the remedy there provided.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The right hon. Gentleman must surely be forgetting the whole of his own experience in local government. He knows perfectly well that when the reports of committees, especially the reports of a finance committee, are brought up, it is impossible for the members of a town council to go over every item of the expenditure that comes before them. They would have to sit very much longer than this House would have to sit if we were to go through every item of expenditure which we authorise. In a memorable case where a Member of the Cabinet incurred illegal expenditure, we did not indemnify the whole Cabinet. We indemnified the particular Minister who committed the error, because any reasonable person would say that you could not hold all the Cabinet responsible for the error of one Member. Here you are saying that the auditor may have the power to deal with a borough council or a board of guardians in a manner which the right hon. Gentleman knows is quite unfair. I am certain, if he were to own up, that when he served in Birmingham he acquiesced in the expenditure of millions of pounds, most of which he knew nothing about.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I am certain I am right in that statement, and I am speak- 1997 ing in the presence of many hon. Members who have served on local authorities. They know that a local body trusts its finance committee and they know that the finance committee has not time to overhaul every item of expenditure. When we come to the boards of guardians the case is even more on our side. As the right hon. Gentleman ought to know, the money for relief has to be voted and paid over to the relieving officer before the cases are dealt with, and, week by week, sums are handed to the relieving officer in order that when he comes to administer relief, he may have the funds at his disposal. What comes before the board for approval is not what is going to happen but what has happened. That is inevitable in cases of relief. You cannot possibly wait for the meeting of the board of guardians which may only be held once a month. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman ought to know that he is misleading the House when he says that boards of guardians, as well as town councils, ought to be able to exercise this control over expenditure. It is quite impossible.
The right hon. Gentleman says that the present system has worked well. What is the purpose, then, of this proposal? The simple reason for the proposition is that the London auditor—and I charge him with this as I charged him with it from this box before in dealing with Labour councils and Labour boards of guardians has instituted an entirely new practice. The right hon. Gentleman knows this better than I do because in this matter he has had more experience. He knows that it has only been in the case of Labour boards of guardians and Labour borough councils that the auditor has lumped the whole sum together and put it in such a fashion that the men and women concerned would be ruined by his action. When he deals with a county council he takes what may be called a token sum; but when he deals with a board of guardians or a borough council like Poplar, Stepney, Bethnal Green or Bermondsey he takes the whole amount. I say that is a deliberate policy which I believe has been instigated by the department—I am not going back on this—in order to defeat a policy of which the right hon. Gentleman disapproves. If it were not so; if the right hon. Gentleman were as fair as he wants the House to believe he is in this matter; if he only wanted to prevent the illegal expendi- 1998 ture of public money, then if our words are not the right words and if our plan is not the right plan let him propose words and a plan which are right. We say that this is the only method we can think of to prevent innocent people being brought before the Courts or to the right hon. Gentleman to get excused for something they never did. If you can tell us a better way to do it, we are willing to accept it, but do not lead the House to believe that under the present administration everything is all right, because your auditor has differentiated in his treatment—
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Yes, your auditor. He sits in your office, and I am under no delusion about it. The auditor is continually in correspondence with yourself, both as regards Poor Law administration and as regards borough council administration. You cannot deny that at this present moment your auditor is down at the Poplar board; and he is acting under your instructions as to what he is to do at the Poplar board.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
You say, "No, no," but I say, "Yes, yes." I shall not take that back, because it is obvious from what is going on there that it is being done in collaboration with the Department in Whitehall. But the point of this whole matter is that your auditor surcharged a whole body of men and women at Poplar, and when they came to the Court, the Court had to excuse a certain number of them who had had nothing whatever to do with it. That proves that the auditor had taken no sort of pains to inquire who was and who was not responsible. We all know—and the right hon. Gentleman cannot truthfully contradict it, no matter how much he may lead the House to suppose that it is not so—not what happened in Ireland, but what happens in London; we all know that when the auditor deals with the county council, he deals with them on an entirely different principle from when he deals with a Labour board of guardians or a Labour borough council. We do not assert that this Amendment is the most perfect way of dealing with the situation, but it is the only way we can think of in order to safeguard large numbers of people who 1999 might be put to the trouble of surcharge and be liable to all the penalties of this Bill when they are entirely innocent of any offence.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I have seldom heard from the Minister a more unreasonable or misleading statement than the one he has delivered on this Amendment. The last point that he submitted to the House was that a strong objection to this Amendment is that it takes from the auditor the right of selection. I should have thought that the representative of a Government sitting on the Treasury Bench would have laid it down that it was better that selection should be in the hands of Parliament than in the hands of a servant, who is not, strictly speaking, even a civil servant. If he were a civil servant with the ordinary status, we might have some control over him through the representative of the Department here, but he is out with even that indirect control by Parliament. The selection of the victims here is entirely in the hands of the auditor, and an auditor is no more likely to be unbiased than is an ordinary member of the community. He may select a political opponent like the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), with whom he has very extreme differences; he may select another person because he is likely to get money out of him; or, as I said before, he may select a man who cannot afford to exercise the right of appeal.
The Amendment proposes that, instead of a person in the position of the auditor having that power placed in his hands, Parliament should direct him how he is to select the people for prosecution. The Minister of Health referred to the normal practice in local authorities. I do not know what his experience of local authorities is, but, quite obviously, it is different from mine, and I am sure from that of most Members of this House. To lay it down that every member of a large local authority takes a keen and detailed interest in the whole business of the council is quite absurd and quite foreign to the truth. It is quite impossible for any member of a local authority to do that. What actually happens in practice is that members of a local authority specialise on certain committees, and they leave to the other committees the 2000 work of managing the departments under those committees. Finance committees have been mentioned. How is it humanly possible for a man who is a member of a finance committee of the London. County Council or one of the large county borough councils, when he is asked to sign cheques, to satisfy himself that every item covered by that cheque is so reasonable as not to be suspected of illegality? It is quite impossible. He cannot do anything do the kind.
It is true we are not dealing here with laws that have been clearly defined. We are dealing with questions that are suspected of illegality because, in the opinion of the auditor, they are unreasonable. He may be questioning them for the first time; they may have gone on for years, and the cheques for these payments might have been automatically signed, but at any moment, because he considers circumstances have changed he may question the legality of payments that have actually been made and for which cheques have actually been signed. To come forward and say that a member who signed those cheques quite honestly and never suspecting he was doing anything illegal, should be subjected to prosecution is something, I submit, that is not worthy of this House. The right hon. Gentleman said that the audit system in the past has worked very well. That is a surprising statement to come from the right hon. Gentleman in view of the fact that we are discussing this Bill. If the system has worked well, where is the necessity for the Bill at all? If it has worked well in the past, is it not just as likely to work well in the future? Is it that the right hon. Gentleman is feeling that we are entering on a new area in local government, and that it worked well as long as there was no question of the majority in the local council being a Conservative majority or a Conservative inclined majority; but now, when we are entering on a new era and when we have people exercising their rights in democracy to banish the Tories into oblivion and to place Labour councils in office, local government is to take its legislation prompted by the right hon. Gentleman. We must take all these things into account, and I have no doubt that even if he fails to get his own way in this, his activities will be supplemented by other Measures he has recently placed on the Statute Book.
2001 Another of his objections was that, if you allowed this Amendment to pass, you would not know where to stop. He said that a committee dealing with tramways, housing or education might remit a certain question to a sub-committee for investigation and report. If he was familiar with the working of large local authorities, he would understand that the practice is entirely different in spirit from that. Mechanically it may seem the same, but in actual practice it is totally different. Where a large committee remits a particular question for consideration and report to a small sub-committee, the parent committee views and discusses very intimately the report of that subcommittee when it comes up. That happens on every local authority in this country. The relations between a parent committee and a sub-committee are entirely different in practice from the relations between that parent committee and the general council. We must not forget that we are dealing here with ordinary routine expenditure, and that the crime is actually committed before the people have an opportunity of knowing that it is a crime. The penalties are so severe that the greatest care ought to be exercised in order to insure that innocent people should not come under them. The auditor is not the man who should be placed in this autocratic and superior position, but he should have direction as to his activities from Parliament itself.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
This Clause is giving a good deal of power to the Minister, and it seems to me that under it any particular person or persons may be penalised. I think my right hon. Friend is right when he says the Minister could select his own opponents. I myself had an experience in 1911 during the great dock strike in London. I am, and have been for over 30 years, a member of the West Ham Corporation. When the big dock strike took place, our local authority decided to feed the children of the men on strike. I was neither a member of the Education Committee nor of the Finance Committee, but in consequence of the
|Division No. 467.]||AYES.||10.57 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Atkinson, C.||Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish|
|Albery, Irving James||Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Betterton, Henry B.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Balniel, Lord||Birchall, Major J. Dearman|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Bearish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool,W. Derby)||Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Boothby, R. J. G.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Bean, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Bourne, Captain Robert Croft|
§ decision of the Education Committee to feed the children of the men on strike, their report was presented to the General Council. The General Council endorsed that report, and, to my great surprise, when the local government auditor a few weeks afterwards audited the accounts of the Education Committee, I received a surcharge of £112. Strange to say, the auditor only selected certain people and I was one of them. Not everyone on the council was surcharged, but only a certain number. If this Clause goes through, it appears to me that the same thing could happen again. The local government auditor can use his own discretion about the surcharge. He may surcharge one member or the whole committee. This Amendment, in my opinion, restricts his power, and does not give him the wide discretion he has under the present Bill.
§ I am rather surprised the Minister of Health will not accept this Amendment, but, of course, it is quite obvious, as far as I can see, that whether it be this Amendment or any other Amendment throughout the whole of these two or three pages, and whether it is reasonable or not the Government have made up their minds that they are not going to accept any Amendment at all. [Interruption.] Well, we shall see later on. I think that is their considered decision already. I do not know whether there is any truth in the rumour floating about this House that the Government intend to get the Report stage and Third Reading to-night. If that be true, I can quite understand why they do not want to accept an Amendment, because I know the Rules of Procedure as well as they do.
§ Mr. STEPHEN rose—
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 227; Noes, 117.
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Waddington, Marquess of||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Radford, E. A.|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Raine, Sir Waiter|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Remnant, Sir James|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Henderson, Lt.-Col. Sir V. L. (Bootle)||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd, Hexham)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks, Newby)||Hills, Major John Waller||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Surary, Ch'ts'y)|
|Buchan, John||Hilton, Cecil||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Burman, J. B.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lane., Stretford)|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St. Marylebone)||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Homan, C. W. J.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Campbell, E. T.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Rye, F. G.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Moseley)||Salmon, Major I.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R.(Prtsmth. S.)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen.||Sir Aylmer Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Huntingfieid, Lord||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Christie, J. A.||Hurd, Percy A.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Hurst, Gerald B.||Savory, S. S.|
|Clayton, G. C.||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Jephcott, A. R.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Simms. Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfast)|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Skelton, A. N.|
|Cope, Major William||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Smithers Waldron|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Lamb, J. Q.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Loder, J. de V.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Long, Major Eric||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Looker, Herbert William||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Ellis, R. G.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|England, Colonel A.||MacDonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Tanker, R. Inigo.|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Macintyre, Ian||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Faille, Sir Bertram G.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Fenby, T. D.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Tinned, J. A.|
|Fielden, E. B.||Margesson, Captain D.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Waddington, R.|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Mason. Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T||Merriman, F. B.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Gates. Percy||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Wells, S. R.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Morden, Colonel Walter Grant||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Moreing, Captain A. H.||Williams, Corn. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Goff Sir Park||Murchison, Sir Kenneth||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Nall, Colonel Sir Joseph||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Grace, John||Nelson, Sir Frank||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Windsor-Clive. Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Grant, Sir J. A.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Winterton. Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Wormer, Viscount|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Nuttall, Ellis||Womersley, W. J.|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||Oakley, T.||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Penny, Frederick George||Wragg, Herbert|
|Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Percy. Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Hanbury, C.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Hannon. Patrick Joseph Henry||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Harland, A.||Philipson, Mabel||Majors Sir George Hennessy and|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Preston, William||Major The Marquess of Titchfield.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Buchanan, G.||Crawford, H. E.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Dalton, Hugh|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Cape, Thomas||Day, Colonel Harry|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Charleton, H. C.||Dennison, R.|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bliston)||Clues, W. S.||Duncan, C.|
|Barnes, A.||Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Dunnico, H.|
|Batey, Joseph||Compton, Joseph||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Connolly, M.||Gibbins, Joseph|
|Bromley, J.||Cove, W. G.||Gillett, George M.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Diversities)||Gosling, Harry|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Morris, R. H.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Greenall, T.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Murnin, H.||Stewart J. (St. Rollox)|
|Groves, T.||Naylor, T. E.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Oliver, George Harold||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro, W.)|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Owen, Major G.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Palln, John Henry||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetlane)||Paling, W.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Hardie, George D.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Townend. A. E.|
|Hayday, Arthur||Ponsonby, Arthur||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Hayes, John Henry||Potts, John S.||Viant, S. P.|
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Hirst, G. H.||Riley, Ben||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Ritson, J.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Rose, Frank H.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Saklatvala, ShapurJi||Westwood, J.|
|Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Lansbury, George||Scrymgeour, E.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Lawrence, Susan||Scurr, John||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Lawson, John James||Sexton, James||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Lee, F.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Lindley, F. W.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Lowth, T.||Sitch, Charles H.||Windsor, Walter|
|Lunn, William||Slesser, Sir Henry H.||Wright, W.|
|Mackinder, W.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|March, S.||Smith, Rennle (Penistone)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Montague, Frederick||Snell, Harry||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. Whiteley.|
§ Question put accordingly, That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
|Division No. 468.]||AYES.||[11.7 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Hirst, G. H.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Barnes. A.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Batey, Joseph||Lansbury, George||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Bowerman. Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Lawrence, Susan||Snell, Harry|
|Bromley, J.||Lawson, John James||Stamford, T. W.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Lee, F.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Buchanan, G.||Lindley, F. W.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Cape, Thomas||Lowth, T.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lunn, William||Thomson. Trevelyan (Middlesbro, W.)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Mackinder, W.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Compton, Joseph||March, S.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Connolly, M.||Montague, Frederick||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Cove, W. G.||Morrison. R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Dalton, Hugh||Murnin, H.||Townend, A. E.|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Naylor, T. E.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Dennison, R.||Oliver, George Harold||Viant, S. P.|
|Duncan, C.||Palin, John Henry||Wallhead. Richard C.|
|Dunnico, H.||Paling, W.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Gillett, George M.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Gosling, Harry||Ponsonby, Arthur||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Graham. Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Potts, John S.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Greenall, T.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Westwood, J.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Coine)||Riley, Ben||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Groves, T.||Ritson, J||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Hall. G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Rose, Frank H.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Hardie, George D.||Saklatvala, Shapurji||Windsor, Walter|
|Hartshorn. Rt. Hon. Vernon||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Wright, W.|
|Hayday, Arthur||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Hayes. John Henry||Scurr, John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Sexton, James||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. Whiteley.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.|
|Albery, Irving James||Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Atkinson, C.||Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Betterton, Henry B.|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Balniel. Lord||Birchall, Major J. Dearman|
§ The House divided: Ayes, 108; Noes, 234.
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Hanbury, C.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Philipson, Mabel|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Harland, A.||Preston, William|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Harrison, G. J. C.||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Hartington, Marquess of||Radford, E. A.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Raine, Sir Walter|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Remnant, Sir James|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)||Henderson, Lt.-Col. Sir V. L. (Bootle)||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Buchan, John||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Burman, J. B.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Hills, Major John Waller||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Hilton, Cecil||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Campbell, E. T.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hogg. Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Rye, F. G.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. S.)||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Cazalet. Captain Victor A.||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Christie, J. A.||Huntingfield, Lord||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Hurd, Percy A.||Savery, S. S.|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hurst, Gerald B.||Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Illffe, Sir Edward M||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Sheffield Sir Berkeley|
|Colfox, Major Win. Phillips||Jephcott. A. R.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Sinclair. Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfast)|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Skelton, A. N.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine,C.)|
|Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Smithers, Waldron|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Lamb, J. Q.||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Loder, J. de V.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Long, Major Eric||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.||Looker, Herbert William||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Luce. Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Dixey, A. C.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Ellis, R. G.||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Tasker, R. Inlgo|
|England, Colonel A.||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||MacIntyre, Ian||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Tinne, J. A.|
|Fairfax, Capain J. G.||Macquisten, F. A.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Waddington, R.|
|Fenby, T. D.||Margesson. Capt. D||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Fielden, E. B.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L||Mason. Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Merriman, F. B.||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Moore. Sir Newton J.||Wells, S. R.|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple|
|Gates, Percy||Morden, Colonel W. Grant||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Moreing, Captain A. H.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Morris, R. H.||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Murchison, Sir Kenneth||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Goff, Sir Park||Nall, Colonel Sir Joseph||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Nelson, Sir Frank||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Grace, John||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Grant, Sir J. A.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Nuttall, Ellis||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Oakley, T.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||O'Neill. Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Wragg, Herbert|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Owen, Major G.|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Penny, Frederick George||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Major Cope and Major The Marquess of Titchfield.|
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The next Amendment I select is that in the name of the Minister of Health in page 1, line 23.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Before you call that Amendment, may I ask you, Sir, whether 2008 you have thoroughly considered the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Scurr) which raises a very important point of principle that was very little discussed upstairs and which we feel very strongly 2009 about indeed—in page 1, line 23, at the end to insert the words:(2) If two or more persons are surcharged jointly for a sum exceeding five hundred pounds the amount surcharged on any of those persons shall for the purposes of this section be deemed to be a proportion only of such sum to be ascertained by dividing the sum by the number of persons surcharged jointly.
I beg to move, in page 1, line 23, at the end, to insert the words(2) Where more than one-third of the members of a local authority become disqualified at the same time by virtue of this Act, then until the number of the members in office is increased to not less than two-thirds of the full number of members of the local authority—This is to provide for a contingency which I do not anticipate is likely to occur at all, but in legislation one must provide for every contingency that is at all possible. The position I am endeavouring to meet is that, if so large a number of members of a local authority-are disqualified as to deprive the council of more than one-third of its members, we should make it possible to fill up the vacancies thereby caused at the earliest possible moment, and, in the meantime, see that the whole business of the council does not come to an end. If over a third of a council are disqualified, it might very easily be found difficult, if not impossible, to get a quorum, according to the existing provision of the law as to what is necessary to form a quorum. Under the existing law, a quorum has to be one-third of the full number of members in the case of a borough council, urban district council, rural district council, and board of guardians, and in the case of county councils, one-fourth of the whole number. Whatever hon. Members opposite may think of the provisions of the Bill, that I am sure is a position which they do not wish to see arise. Therefore, it is provided in the Amend- 2010 ment that where so large a number of members of a council are disqualified, the quorum of the local authority shall be determined by reference to the number of members remaining qualified instead of by reference to the full members.
- (a) the quorum of the local authority shall be determined by reference to the number of the members of the local authority remaining qualified instead of by reference to the full number of members of the local authority;
- (b) no provision preventing a returning officer holding an election to fill a casual vacancy shall apply to any vacancy in the office of members of that local authority."
I do not think any further explanation is needed of the first part of the Amendment, but in explanation of the second part I would remind the House that, under Section 48 of the Local Government Act, 1894, it is provided that, where a vacancy occurs within six months before the ordinary date of re-election, it is not to be filled. In the case of disqualification of a considerable number of members, that might mean that the council would be seriously crippled for the remaining part of the financial year, and, therefore, we provide that the provision is not to apply and the vacancies may be filled where more than one-third of the council are disqualified.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I feel far from satisfied with the right hon. Gentleman's explanation. It is the sort of contemptuous explanation to which we have been accustomed. We have not really had anything like an adequate explanation of the Clause. I am still far from understanding why it is that, in the case where more than a third of the members are disqualified, certain provisions are to operate until the number of members in office is increased to not less than two-thirds. I see no reason why it should not be the whole council. We have had no explanation of what is to happen in case the whole council have been disqualified. One-third or two-thirds of nothing means nothing. We have had it explained to us that in cases of surcharge the auditor should have unfettered discretion, and it may well be that there will be cases where the whole council or board are incriminated in some so-called illegal or unreasonable action, and no provision is made to deal with a case of that kind. What the new Sub-section means is that, until such time as the electors have had an opportunity of reaffirming their previous choice of candidates, there shall be undisputed authority on the part of the Tory rump. More than one-third of the council or the board of guardians are to be disqualified before this Sub-section operates.
Let us assume that one-half of the members have been disqualified. Then 2011 in the case of borough, urban and district councils and boards of guardians, the quota is one-third. One-third of one-half is one-sixth. It will, therefore, be competent for one-sixth of the members of any local authorit—presumably the good boys, the white sheep whom the Minister loves; ex-hypothesi, they are that or they will be disqualified—are to remain in full control, without any sort of other control, until the elections have taken place. That is to continue for a period of time, because it may well be that a number of those disqualified will have an appeal pending, or they may-subsequently appeal, and the whole situation on the council will fall into a state of utter comfusion. During the whole time the elections are being prepared for and in progress the henchmen of the Tory party will be trying to restore the old Tory prestige on the council, and going back to the bad old days. No doubt that is what the Minister wants in proposing this arrangement. I See no reason why there should be any alteration in the election law in this Bill, made in this particular way. It is true that within six months of an election in the locality the returning officer cannot hold an election; but to attempt to make an exception in the law of election because of a Bill which the right hon. Gentleman says is hardly going to apply to anybody, seems to be taking the matter much too far. The right hon. Gentleman said that he did not imagine that there was really any need for this Sub-section, because it was unlikely or remote that one-third of the members of any local authority would be disqualified. He does not know. Nobody knows but the district auditor. But if the number of cases is so few, it seems unreasonable to go to all this legislation to deal with a difficulty which may never arise. This proposal shows the determination of the right hon. Gentleman to meet every contingency. It indicates that he means business on this Bill. It is not to be a dead letter. It will be used ruthlessly against those people who err on the side of Labour policy, broadly speaking, and for the suppression of Labour majorities. I am not at all satisfied that my hon. Friends should support this proposal in the Division lobby. It so clearly reveals the right hon. Gentleman's mind on this Bill 2012 that we are fully entitled to vote against it.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
I hope we shall go to a Division. We are opposed to this Bill root and branch, from A to Z. You are giving a tremendous power to the district auditor, although the right hon. Gentleman says that he does not believe the contingency will arise. No, because the district auditor is not going to be foolish enough to surcharge one-third of the council. He can surcharge the whole lot, but I do not think the auditor will be foolish enough to do that. We are not going to give you any accommodation at all. Why should we? We are opposed to the whole thing, root and branch.
§ Mr. GILLETT
I want to ask two questions. Am I to understand that the disqualification of a councillor does not take effect if he appeals to the Court and that he is entitled to go on in the council until a decision is given? Then I want to know whether the Amendment does cover all the emergencies which might arise. On the metropolitan borough councils, if a vacancy occurs, the procedure is that the attention of the clerk is drawn to the vacancy by two members of the council. I put the case: Suppose the auditor surcharges the whole of the members of the dominant party and they are all disqualified, the position can easily be that the minority on the council need not draw the attention of the clerk to the vacancies and remain in control until the life of the council came to an end. I should like to know whether the clerk has power to order a new election without his attention having to be called to the fact that vacancies have occurred?
I should like to call the hon. Member's attention to the words in the Clause,and if he is a member of a local authority his office shall thereupon become vacant.
§ Mr. GILLETT
That is not my point. If it becomes vacant, has the clerk liberty to move in the matter without his attention having to be first drawn to the fact by other members? Has he power to order a new election? Usually it is two members of the party to which the retiring member belongs who draw attention to the vacancy, and sometimes this is held up for the convenience of the party.
§ Mr. PALING
I have listened very carefully to the Minister's explanation of the Clause. One of the things he said was that the contingency was not likely to arise where more than one-third of the members would be disqualified, but that this provision has been put in in case it should arise. I cannot follow that line of argument. The statement of the Parliamentary Secretary on the last Amendment, which proposed that the responsibility should be placed on the members of a committee directly responsible for expenditure, was "No, it must be placed on the whole of the council and the whole of the responsibility must be placed on the whole of the council." The Government would not accept the Amendment putting the responsibility on the committee. I take it that before any expenditure can be made in the direction indicated it must be approved by a majority of the members of the council. If it is, is it not likely that where a surcharge is made the whole of the members who have approved the expenditure are likely to be surcharged, or, if not, how is the auditor going to pick one man or two or three of the council and surcharge these people as having more responsibility than the whole of the members who voted in favour of the expenditure? If the auditor is not going to pick and choose in that way, how can he avoid, in cases where the majority approve the expenditure, surcharging the lot and bringing, not one-third but more than half of the council, under the surcharge?
Take the case of an urban council with a membership of 13. There are 11 members of one party and two of another. The Parliamentary Secretary stated that it is within his knowledge that these people tell the electors that if they get into power they will put into operation a certain policy. The 11 get returned as members of the council. They put into operation the policy on which they have been returned, and the whole of the 11 vote for it as a party. Then the auditor comes down and finds that the expenditure is illegal as indicated in this Bill He makes a surcharge. How would it be possible for the auditor to surcharge one or two or three or any number less than the whole lot? The 2014 Parliamentary Secretary agrees with my argument. Therefore he must agree that the whole of the 11 must be surcharged. What is to be a quorum of the other two members? Suppose a case where the whole of the members were of one party, or that the 11 convinced the other two of the justice of the case they put forward, and the vote was unanimous. Again it would be impossible for the auditor to pick and choose and he would have to surcharge the lot. Who then are to form the quorum? How can you form a quorum out of nothing? Who is to carry on the business of the council?
The Minister says he cannot visualise a set of circumstances like that. Cannot he? Is he going in such a case to send out nominated members? Is the Minister going to bring in another Measure on the lines of the Boards of Guardians (Default) Act and send down appointed members? What an easy way out it would be to nominate Tories where the electors had voted for Labour! Supposing the majority of a council were disqualified because the district auditor surcharged them and a email minority of the original council were left to carry on the business, would that minority have the power to repeal all the resolutions previously put into operation by the majority—resolutions which the minority did not like and had opposed? Would the minority be able to take the splendid opportunity thus presented to them of undoing what the council as a whole had done? Is that one of the things which the Minister has in mind? I give the right hon. Gentleman credit for being very clever. In subtlety, even the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot excel him, and I hope he is going to answer these questions. But the right hon. Gentleman has not made much of a defence for this Bill and his only case for this very serious Amendment is that he cannot visualise such a state of circumstances. Yet those circumstances might arise and the House has a right to know what is going to happen if they do arise. This Bill is aimed at Labour majorities and, where there is a Labour majority acting as a party, a situation such as I have indicated may be created by a surcharge. If the Measure comes into operation and the auditor exercises these new powers, cases are bound to occur affecting a majority, rather than 2015 one or two members of a council—unless the auditor is going to pick and choose and submit an individual here and there to a penalty, which, if it is applied at all should attach to the whole body of those voting for the policy called in question.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
Reference has already been made to the surcharge of £23,000 in the case of Poplar. All the council were surcharged with the exception of six members. Does the Minister mean that in such a case as that—a case which actually occurred—he would leave the six members to carry on the administration of the borough, in undisputed possession of the field, without a new election? If he did so, the quorum in that particular case would, I think, be one. There we have a reductio ad absurdum. Thirty odd members would be disfranchised and six would be left. If the present Bill were in force and if the auditor took the same view as he did in the second and third cases which I mentioned in relation to Poplar, all the council but six would he disqualified from public life. Six would be left as the council and, as I say, the quorum would be one, or it may be one and a half. I do not know what view the Minister takes with regard to the fraction, but does he contemplate such a ridiculous position?
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I wish to put one or two questions to the Minister on this point. He seems to have the idea that when things are done which are surchargeable, they are done by a majority riding rough shod over a minority. But it is not so, by any means. I have a number of these cases where there has been a unanimous decision by a council. Take the much-debated £4 minimum. It went through in our council without a division. The district auditor goes on extending his sway from one subject to another, and what he is now attacking are things which have been the common practice of all parties for years. The Minister is going to find himself with a whole borough council membership surcharged unless he is going to have some system of picking and choosing according to the people's political opinions. This Bill was very badly considered in Committee. The Minister never realised, until after the discussion upstairs, and when he had closured us so that he could not have time to answer, what this 2016 Amendment meant, and even now he has not considered it.
What is he going to do in an area where he enforces this and finds that no one will stand for the Council and take the risks involved? If you are going to have respectable members of society, quite likely of all parties, doing their duty and being brought up for a mere failure to judge correctly the mind of the district auditor and surcharged for amounts over £500, you are going to have such a reign of terror that no one will stand for the councils. You may declare your vacancy, but I would like a little more light from the Minister on that point, for he suggested that that could be done by two ratepayers. I never heard of that before; I always understood that it had to be done by a council. It would have been a little more dignified and worthy of this House if the Minister had troubled to find out some of these points before putting down this Clause. What steps is he going to take where, owing to his action under this Bill, or owing to the action of the district auditor and himself combined, you have a situation where no one will stand? He has not taken power yet to put in his pet administrators to run the show, but the method he is following is thoroughly vicious, and it shows what is at the back of his mind.
By means of this Bill he is going, if he can, to turn out his political opponents from their seats on the councils, and he is not even content with that. The Minister, who is one of the most bureaucratic and least democratic of Ministers, is in this Bill already cutting at the whole basis of local government, which is that the people of a locality have, within the bounds of the law, the right to rule themselves. The Minister says, "No, I will turn out the people whom they have elected, and I am not prepared to wait to see whether they elect people of the same colour again. When I manage to get the Labour people out, and I have my own little rump of people in, I will give them special power so that in the interval they can have a majority on the council to enable them to reverse all that their predecessors have done." That is modern democracy! That is self-government according to the gospel of the Minister of Health! I think this is interesting as showing exactly how his mind works. He seems to me to be a 2017 sort of Whitehall Cromwell trying to do a "Pride's purge" of his own.
§ Mr. SCURR
The surcharges in the Poplar case arose over wages, and the auditor said that in his opinion the wages paid ought to be either those of the Joint Industrial Council or ten per cent. above those wages as a discretion. The members of the Joint Industrial Council on the employers' side are appointed by the various metropolitan borough councils. I am chairman of one of these industrial councils, and if this "rump" be carried out, it means there would be a vacancy on that council, and they could immediately appoint somebody of their own to fill the vacancy. The result might be to alter the composition of the council and to bring about a reduction in wages Further than that, the borough councillors who are left would be able to elect the aldermen, because certain aldermen may be surcharged, and in the case which has been stated by the hon. Lady the Member for East Ham North (Miss Lawrence) the Municipal Alliance members would be able to elect seven aldermen to the Poplar Borough Council. So they would come along and calmly carry out a policy of which the electors had not approved. That is an absurdity from beginning to end.
§ Sir K. WOOD
With reference to the point raised as to election to vacancies, in the case of provincial borough councils, the election is to be held within 14 days after notice of the vacancy has been given by two burgesses. As regards the urban and rural district councils, notice has to be given by two councillors; and in the case of a metropolitan borough council, when there is a vacancy by resignation, disqualification or absence, an election has to be held within one month of the seat becoming vacant. In the case of a county council, "local government elector" is substituted for "burgess." That is the legal position. As regards the other points that have been put by hon. Gentlemen opposite—
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Is the hon. Gentleman quite sure about the borough councils? I am aware of a council where there are at least six seats which have been vacant for months, and I understand from the clerk of that council that they cannot be filled up unless attention is called to the fact of the vacancies by two members of the council.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I have it here, but I will verify it later. Section 66 of the Metropolitan Borough Councils Act, 1882, modified by an Order of 1903, called the Councils Election Order, says that in case of a vacancy by resignation, disqualification, or absence, an election must be held within one month of the seat becoming vacant, no notice being required.
§ Sir HENRY SLESSER
The hon. Gentleman quoted the Act of 1882. That does not cover the case of the borough councils, which is covered by an Act of 1899.
§ Sir K. WOOD
So far as this Amendment is concerned, I should have thought that it helped the object which the hon. Gentleman had at heart, because this Amendment in the first place deals with the question of what is to arise if a number of councillors are disqualified and the ordinary quorum is not able to operate. There are two things that will arise under this Amendment if it be put into the Bill. In the first place, another quorum is substituted. Secondly, all the vacancies which arise in this connection have to be filled and, as hon. Gentlemen opposite say they belong to a particular party and they are confident in their case, one can assume that the persons elected to take the place of the representatives disqualified will have the same political complexion, and by that means the authority will be duly completed. From what I have been able to gather, however, especially from what the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Greenwood) has told us this afternoon, this event is not likely to arise at all. The hon. Gentlemen opposite would have us 2019 believe that, when this Bill comes into operation, such is the firmness of purpose of these people that we shall find them standing up against the provisions of this Bill, refusing to obey its provisions and gradually disappearing from public life under the operations of the Measure. I do not think that there is the slightest likelihood of that taking place, because, as hon. Gentlemen opposite know full well, these proceedings this afternoon and their opposition are very largely a farce. They know that, in the case of every borough council affected by this Measure, so far from their being unable to fulfil its provisions or finding difficulty in doing so, they are all applying those provisions now. They are having no difficulty in interpreting this Clause. All of them, without exception, are at this moment carrying out the provisions of this Bill. So far from there being any difficulty, all of them, as far as I am able to ascertain, are obeying the provisions of this Bill. This is a case of a Bill so excellent that it has actually come into operation before reaching the Statute Book. Therefore, all these difficulties have disappeared. This Bill is already in operation and being obeyed by all the councils concerned.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I do not think that we could have had a better justification of the hard things said about the Bill than the speech to which we have just listened. Speaker after speaker has attacked the Bill on the ground that it is a measure of terror, that its object is to break the will and power of Labour councils—particularly those drawn from the ranks of the working class—and to compel them not to carry out the policy for which they were elected and in which they conscientiously believe but to adopt the tactics of Whitehall rather than submit to the penalties of this Bill. The Parliamentary Secretary has found a great deal of delight, if not of actual amusement, in the fact that before the Bill has become an Act its mere introduction has had such a terrorising effect on the minds of local councillors that they are already changing their policy. I wish that instead of gloating over his conquests he had made some attempt to reply to the questions which have been addressed to him. When pressed as to what would happen in the inevitable 2020 event of certain things occurring he flippantly told us that we ought to wait till those occasions arise. What does he mean by that? Does he mean we are to delay the passing of this Measure? After all, what we want is information that will enable us to pass an intelligent Measure, and he refuses to disclose the information. He advises us to pass the Measure and to damn the consequences.
The Minister of Health, in introducing this innocent Amendment of his, said—I am sorry I was not present—that he could not visualise a case in which one-third of the members of a council would be disqualified. That seems to reveal a strange attitude of mind. I cannot contemplate a payment by a local authority which would be so unreasonable as to become illegal being passed without the support of a majority of the Members. That, I think, is perfectly obvious, and according to the Bill the council would then become liable to the penalties of this Measure. Only a few minutes ago we were discussing an Amendment, which was rejected, in which we sought to lay it down that only the members of the council directly responsible, the people indeed who recommended the expenditure, should come under the penalties of the Measure. The right hon. Gentleman opposed that Amendment on the ground that we had no right to select certain persons for punishment, but that everyone responsible should come under the lash of the law. If my assumption is correct that this unreasonable payment must have the support of a majority of the council, and his argument holds good that all who support the unreasonable payment should be punished, how can the right hon. Gentleman visualise a situation where there will be two-thirds of the council remaining? I cannot contemplate a situation in which there will be a majority left, and that is one of my fundamental objections to the Bill. It is quite clear now from what the right hon. Gentleman has said that certain people are to be selected for punishment. His objection is not to a selection, but to selection being in any way dictated or defined by Parliament itself.
The right hon. Gentleman desires the auditor to have full play and discretion in the selection of the victims of this measure. That is clearly revealed in the statement made by the Minister that he 2021 does not expect the auditor to select all the people who are responsible. In the case where the policy receives the support of the majority then the Minister would have to proceed against a majority of the council, and yet the right hon. Gentleman says that he cannot visualise a situation in which he would proceed against the majority of the council, or a situation in which he would have to proceed against more than one-third of the council. I do not think the auditor should have this power of selection. We have appealed to the Minister in Amendment after Amendment not to place that oppressive power in the hands of one individual. The right hon. Gentleman agrees that a selection must be made and I think he might be frank with us and state how he thinks the auditor will act in making his selection. Although a majority of the council may have voted for certain expenditure they are not to be prosecuted, and the Minister says that not more than one-third will ever be prosecuted. How will the auditor proceed to select the victims of the law from the majority which is liable to prosecution? I wish the Minister would answer that question. Are they to be selected on political grounds? The right hon. Gentleman will not answer that question, and he relies, I will not say upon the battalions behind him, but upon his friends who, so far as we know, have not even read this Bill, and have taken no part in the discussions although they are quite ready to give their sanction to this Measure which will inflict untold misery on thousands of honest people in this country through the failure of the Government to carry out its legitimate Parliamentary duty. How does he think the victims will be selected? Will they be chosen on account of their political views? It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to say that the auditor is not his auditor, and he has said that several times in the course of these debates. I suppose that technically this official is not the Minister's auditor.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain FitzRoy)
This Amendment only deals with what is to be done after they are disqualified.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
The Minister has told us that it is very unlikely that a majority will be disqualified, and under those circumstances how can business be carried on?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I think the hon. Member was arguing as to who would select the members to be disqualified.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
From what the Minister has told us it is quite clear that he does not contemplate a situation in which all the guilty people will be proceeded against. He visualises a situation in which only a section of those who may be guilty will be selected for punishment. I was dealing with the point as to how the minority or section is to be selected for punishment, and that brings us to the question who is to make the choice. The person who is to make the choice is the auditor. That is mentioned all over the Amendment, and we cannot really consider the Amendment without considering this point. The whole power of selecting the victims is placed in the hands of the auditor. The House has already rejected an Amendment seeking to limit the auditor's selection, and now he is to make a selection from the whole council. Surely, we are entitled to consider who this auditor is in whose hands this autocratic and extensive power is placed.
The Minister asks the House to believe that he is a State servant occupying an independent position and always exercising an impartial judgment. I suppose it might be bad taste to say that that is not absolutely correct, but we can begin by assuming that he is a human being, with all the weaknesses and strength of character and mind of other human beings. It is true that he is not the Minister's auditor, but I think I am not far wrong in saying that he is appointed by the Minister of Health. I know that he is paid out of Parliamentary funds, and, while he has not the full status of a Civil Servant, he certainly is not a person so absolutely independent of influence as the Minister would ask us to believe. I know that he, like other people, will respond very readily to the environment in which he works—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
We really must not go back to the points that we have been discussing nearly all day. We have long passed the stage of the views of the auditor on the question of disqualification, and are now on the question of what is to happen after certain people have been disqualified.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I am sure I do not want to attempt to go outside your ruling or advice to the House, but the point with which we were dealing was this: A selection has to be made by the auditor, from the majority of the members of the council, of those who shall be prosecuted—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
At the point at which we are now, the selection has presumably been made, and we are only dealing with the consequences which will follow that.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I am submitting that it has not been made until this House has decided that it should be made, and, in considering whether it should be made, we are entitled to take into account all the relevant considerations and influences that are likely to bear on the making of the decision. I do not, however, want to trespass on even the spirit of your ruling. I was not, when you entered the House, dealing with the duties of the auditor so much as with the character of the auditor, and the fact that he was, like the rest of us, subject to his environment and would
|Division No. 469.]||AYES.||[12.9 a.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.|
|Albery, Irving James||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Dixey, A. C.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Centr'l)||Ellis, R. G.||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool. W. Derby)||England, Colonel A.||King, Commodore Henry Douglas|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J.(Kent, Dover)||Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Lamb, J. Q.|
|Balniel, Lord||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Fenby, T. D.||Loder, J. de V.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Long, Major Eric|
|Birehall, Major J. Dearman||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Looker, Herbert William|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Fraser, Captain Ian||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Ganzoni, Sir John||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||MacIntyre, Ian|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Glyn, Major R. G. C||Makins, Brigadier-General E.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Goff, Sir Park||Margesson, Captain D.|
|Buchan, John||Gower, Sir Robert||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Burman, J. B.||Grace, John||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.|
|Campbell, E. T.||Grant, Sir J. A.||Moore, Sir Newton J.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R.(Prtsmth. S.)||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Moreing, Captain A. H.|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Grotrian, H. Brent||Murchison, Sir Kenneth|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Christie, J. A.||Hanbury, C.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Harland, A.||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Harrison, G. J. C.||Oakley, T.|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hartington, Marquess of||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Penny, Frederick George|
|Cope, Major William||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Crookshank,Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Hills, Major John Waller||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Hilton, Cecil||Philipson, Mabel|
|Curzon. Captain Viscount||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Preston, William|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Price, Major C. W. M.|
§ hold certain political prejudices, and, therefore, should not be given superpowers, because he is not a superman.
§ I object to this Amendment on another ground. I do not think the House should accept it, because it contains or supports or provides for the system of selection. I do not think that that system should be recognised by this House. It is dangerous to place in the hands of one person the power to determine the political life or death of any of his fellow-citizens, and I hope that on that ground alone the House will reject the Amendment. I am sure I can say for all of my friends that, if it is pressed by the Minister, we shall go into the Lobby unanimously and vote for its rejection.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 170; Noes, 74.
|Radford, E. A.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Raine, Sir Walter||Smithers, Waldron||Wells, S. R.|
|Remnant, Sir James||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Steel, Major Samuel Strang||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Robinson, Sir T. (Lanc, Stretford)||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Rye, F. G.||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Salmon, Major I.||Tinne, J. A.||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Sandeman, N. Stewart||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Savery, S. S.||Waddington, R.||Wragg, Herbert|
|Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)||Wallace. Captain D. E.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Shepperson, E. W.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Sinclair, Col. T.(Queen's Univ., Belfst.)||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)||Major Sir George Hennessy and|
|Skelton, A. N.||Watts, Dr. T.||Captain Bowyer.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff. Cannock)||Hirst, G. H.||Scurr, John|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Sexton, James|
|Barnes, A.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Batey, Joseph||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Buchanan, G.||Lansbury, George||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Cape, Thomas||Lawrence, Susan||Stephen, Campbell|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lawson, John James||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Compton, Joseph||Lee, F.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Lindley, F. W.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lunn, William||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Mackinder, W.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Dunnico, H.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Townend, A. E.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Montague, Frederick||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Gillett, George M.||Murnin, H.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Greenall, T.||Oliver, George Harold||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Palin, John Henry||Westwood, J.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Paling, W.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Windsor, Walter|
|Handle. George D.||Potts, John S.|
|Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Riley, Ben||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hayday, Arthur||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr.|
|Hayes, John Henry||Sakiatvala, Shapurji||Whiteley.|
§ Question put accordingly, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
|Division No. 470.]||AYES.||[12.17 a.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Grant, Sir J. A.|
|Albery, Irving James||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Colman, N. C. D.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Cooper, A. Duff||Grotrian, H. Brent|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool. W. Derby)||Cope, Major William||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Aster, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Hanbury, c.|
|Balniel, Lord||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Harland, A.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Harrison, G. J. C.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Dawson, Sir Phillip||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Dixey, A. C.||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Ellis, R. G.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||England, Colonel A.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Hills, Major John Waller|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Fenby, T. D.||Hilton, Cecil|
|Buchan, John||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)|
|Burman, J. B.||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Fraser, Captain Ian||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.|
|Campbell, E. T.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. S.)||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Jones. Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||King, Commodore Henry Douglas|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N.(Ladywood)||Goff, Sir Park||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Christie, J. A.||Gower, Sir Robert||Lamb, J. Q.|
|Clayton, G. C.||Grace, John||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Loder, J. de V.|
§ The House divided: Ayes, 170; Noes, 71.
|Long, Major Eric||Preston, William||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Looker, Herbert William||Price, Major C. W. M.||Tinne, J. A.|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Radford, E. A.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Raine, Sir Walter||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Remnant, Sir James||Waddington, R.|
|McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|MacIntyre, Ian||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Warner Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Margesson, Captain D.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Russell, Alexander West-(Tynemouth)||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Rye, F. G.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Salmon, Major I.||Wells, S. R.|
|Moore, Sir Newton J.||Sandeman, N. Stewart||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Moreing, Captain A. H.||Savery, S. S.||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Murchison, Sir Kenneth||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W. R., Sowerby)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Nall, Colonel Sir Joseph||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Nelson, Sir Frank||Shepperson, E. W.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Sinclair. Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfast)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Skelton, A. N.||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Nuttall, Ellis||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Oakley, T.||Smithers, Waldron||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.||Wragg, Herbert|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G.(Westm'eland)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.||Captain Bowyer and Mr. Penny.|
|Philipson, Mabel||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Scurr, John|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hirst, G. H.||Sexton, James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Barnes. A.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Batey, Joseph||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Lansbury, George||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Buchanan, G.||Lawrence, Susan||Stephen, Campbell|
|Cape, Thomas||Lawson, John James||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lee, F.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Compton, Joseph||Lindley, F. W.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Lunn, William||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Dalton, Hugh||Mackinder, W.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Montague, Frederick||Townend, A. E.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Murnin, H.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Gillett, George M.||Oliver, George Harold||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Greenall. T.||Palin, John Henry||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Coins)||Paling, W.||Westwood, J.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Potts, John S.||Windsor, Walter|
|Hardie, George D.||Riley, Ben|
|Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hayday, Arthur||Saklatvala, Shapurji||Mr. whiteley and Mr. Charles|
|Hayes, John Henry||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Edwards.|